The introduction of the Rugby World Cup in 1987 and the close association with television coverage and sponsors occurred at a time when media expansion, through telecommunication developments, created a sellers’ market for the sport. Formalised competitions at both club and international level meant the players had to take a more devoted and ‘professional’ approach to the game by paying specific attention to fitness, diet, coaching and tactical awareness. In return they were hoping to receive financial return for their dedication to the sport.

This chapter considers relevant milestones in relation to the erosion of the amateur ideal and declaration of professionalism in rugby union from the players’ perspective. The chapter draws on some of the historical material related to the acceptance of professionalism as well as relevant interview material, and the views of individuals from the British Isles, France, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.