The Calcutta Cup is one of the most historic trophies in rugby as it is given to the winner of a game between the two oldest international rugby sides. But where did the name Calcutta Cup come from?
Why is it called the Calcutta Cup? The Calcutta Rugby Club in India donated a trophy made out of rupees to the RFU and it became the trophy awarded to the winner between Scotland and England. The trophy was named after the rugby club that created the trophy and then donated it to the RFU.
The name of the Calcutta Cup dates all the way back to 1872. Rugby had started to become popular in England and Scotland in the 1850s and 1860s, so much so that the two countries played the first-ever international against each other in 1871.
A year after that, soldiers from both countries stationed in India decided to start playing rugby games. Eventually, the Calcutta Rugby Club was formed and it became very popular between English and Scottish soldiers in particular. A problem however did start to form.
Indian conditions simply did not suit the game of rugby and memberships of the club started to fall quite quickly. People just did not seem to like Rugby much in India despite the legitimacy the Calcutta Rugby Club had gained from being part of the Rugby Football Union.
The issue with the game was that there were not many new players joining the sport who could have supported the club. Not only that, but Rugby struggled to compete with games like Polo and Cricket which were much better suited to the hot conditions in India.
So eight years after the club was formed, it was then disbanded as they had seen membership numbers drop dramatically. There had been some large investments into the club by soldiers and these were pulled out. Most of these investments were made in silver rupees as they were the currency of India at the time.
Instead of taking all of their investment out of the club, some of the members decided to leave a lasting legacy of the Calcutta Football Club. They decided to create a trophy made out of 270 silver rupees which had been melted down. Once the trophy was complete it was given to the Rugby Football Union.
A year after that, it was decided that the trophy given to the RFU by the Calcutta Football Club would be given to the winner of the annual game between England and Scotland, who had been playing internationals annually against each other for the previous eight years. The teams first met in 1871.
So in 1879, a trophy was given to the winner between the two teams, although the game ended in a draw so it was in 1980 that the trophy was actually handed out for the first time, with England being the first team to hold the trophy. As it had been given to them by the Calcutta Football Club, the RFU named the trophy the Calcutta Cup and it has stuck ever since.
Is there a replica of the Calcutta Cup?
While it may look a lot like the original, the trophy that is currently awarded to the winner between England and Scotland is actually a replica. The original trophy was awarded to the winning team for many years but issues began to arise.
In 1988 the cup experienced significant damage after drunken players from both sides played football with the cup along Princes Street in Edinburgh. It is a very famous incident and one that England’s Dean Richards and Scotland’s John Jeffrey received substantial punishments for.
Richards’s punishment was not as bad, he received a one-game ban from the RFU. But Jeffrey was banned for six months from the Scottish Rugby Union. The damage done to the cup means that it now cannot be transported and so a new trophy was created to look exactly like the original.
The replica is now the one given to the annual winner of the Calcutta Cup, while the original remains at Twickenham Rugby Museum, which has become its permanent home. The original silver is now in very fragile condition and so each team holds onto a replica that they bring out if they beat the other team.
Is the Calcutta Cup the oldest trophy in World Rugby?
The Calcutta Cup is indeed the oldest trophy in World Rugby, having first come into use in 1879. It is hardly surprising that this is the oldest trophy in the world as it is given to the winner of the oldest international game in the world, with Scotland and England playing the very first rugby international game in 1871.
The provision is that the Calcutta Cup is played annually between the two sides and this has been the case every year since the trophy’s creation outside of world wars. At the moment, the Calcutta Cup game is usually played in the Six Nations and it has been both sides’ first game of the Six Nations in the last few years.
There is no trophy in World Rugby older than the Calcutta Cup. The Triple Crown is seen as the closest competitor to the Calcutta Cup. It is given to the team out of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland who defeats all three in a year, often taking place in the Six Nations.
The Triple Crown was first recorded in 1884, five years after the creation of the Calcutta Cup. However, it was known as an invisible cup for years as no trophy was awarded until one was commissioned for the winner in 2006.
What happens if the Calcutta Cup is a draw?
The process for what happens with the Calcutta Cup if it is a draw is actually pretty simple. The trophy is retained by the team that won it the previous year. 2019 is a recent example of this. The Six Nations game between the two sides ended 38-38 and so Scotland retained the trophy as they had beaten England 25-13 in 2018.