A recent edition of the excellent BBC radio series ‘Sport and the British’ focused on the bifurcation of rugby and the enmity that surrounded the split into two codes.
It recalled the political climate in which the watershed meeting took place at the George Hotel in Huddersfield on August 29, 1895 as 21 clubs resigned from the RFU and formed the Northern Union.
As a result, Rugby League was born and for several decades a sport considered by many in the south to be the poor relation, actually led the way in the development of most areas we now consider essential to professional rugby union.
Indeed the passage of time has obscured the fact that for many issues like conditioning, skill development and tactical analysis were considered unsporting and un-corinthian by the union code.
The basis of the disagreement was class snobbery. Broadly speaking clubs in the north prided themselves on attracting large attendances and providing a spectacle for the working man, while those in the south celebrated the physical and moral benefits of playing a team sport.
Northern clubs used their gate money to offer financial inducements to attract the best players which when considered in a late Victorian context of class rivalry, proved to be the straw that broke the union.
And for 100 years the twain did not meet.
Union players who crossed the divide and accepted financial reimbursement, became pariahs to the 15-man game. Even as recently as 20 years ago it was big news if a union international chose to earn money from his talent.
Yet all of that has changed in the last couple of decades. Union opened its coffers in 1995 and players of both sports are now well-rewarded and cross codes as if they are changing their girlfriend.
Which is why it might be a good time to think about reunifying the codes. Certainly there are no longer any ideological or social reasons behind the split.
Rugby League has never found a market in the south and union is withering on the vine in the north. They are effectively chasing the same dollar, albeit in different parts of the country. Commercially the codes would be stronger united.
On the field the games are closer than they have ever been, particularly in terms of defensive structures and some attacking patterns, such as tracking wingers, but a rapprochement would take a great deal of compromise. Too much perhaps.
That doesn’t mean it’s not a discussion worth having.