The first chapter of this book has provided an outline of the evolution of rugby union from its routes in folk and mob games through to its position on the sporting landscape in the aftermath of the Second World War. In doing so, the chapter illustrates the Rugby Football Union’s and International Rugby Football Board’s determination to keep amateurism as the central value in the game’s identity despite a number of challenges to their hegemony.

This chapter considers the impact of commercialism and spectatorship on the global development of rugby union throughout the second half of the twentieth century. In addition, the chapter documents rugby union’s various responses to professionalism while attempting to remain nominally amateur. Where appropriate this chapter also draws on historical sources to contextualise the material drawn from interviews conducted with elite players. Specifically the chapter is organised around the following themes:

The growth and development of the ‘professional attitude’

Struggle for authority and power within the global game of rugby union

The growth of commercial opportunities and forms of resistance

The players’ voice – experiences, expectations and consequences