We haven't had a 'Romans-invented-rugby' piece in a while, so here's one from IC Wales:

RUGBY legend Scott Quinnell as a gladiator...? Hmmm.

While the Wales and Lions legend certainly looked the part when our sister newspaper, Wales on Sunday, created this homage to the Russell Crowe epic Gladiator, it turns out that they may have been closer to the truth than they thought.

Because while they turned Quinnell into a Roman fighter before Wales took on Italy in 2001, historians are now saying that it was actually the Romans who invented the game.

Historians believe rugby may have been played by Roman legionaries in South Wales shortly after the birth of Christ.

About 2,000 years before William Webb Ellis picked up a ball at Rugby School, the Romans were playing seven-a-side.

The game may even have been played by "gwl diators" at a Roman fort.

Harpastum, a small ball game, involved touching down to score tries and tackling opponents to defend the try line.

A bladder ball was carried in the hand and passed between teammates rather than kicked along the ground.

Steven Ash, vice-president of Caerleon rugby club, found a reference to Roman rugby by legendary Western Mail rugby writer JBG Thomas.

The Roman Legionary Museum in Caerleon researched the claim and said they have found what could be a harpastum pitch in the town's ancient fort.

A spokesman for the museum said, "Excavations at the fortress baths complex have revealed a large colonnaded court yard, or palestra, for open-air exercise and games.

"Harpastum was brought to Britain by the Romans and it is very possible that it would have been practised here. Caerleon can now challenge Rugby, in Northamptonshire, for the title of rugby's birthplace."

Although Gwent-premier side Caerleon was founded 30 years ago, it may in fact be the oldest club in the world.

Mr Ash said the club's attempts to revive the Roman version of the game had floundered because it was too violent.

"We couldn't find a rugby team to play it, especially when they found out about the broken bones.

"The aim was to get the ball down over the line and you tried to stop your opponent from doing it."

Caerleon rugby club is proud of its Roman heritage. The team's crest carries a picture of the town's amphitheatre - the most complete site of its type remaining in Britain.

The club's ground - The Broadway - is opposite the Roman amphitheatre, founded in AD75 as one of the furthest outposts of the Roman Empire.

Harpastum was popular for about 700 to 800 years. It was played on a rectangular pitch with no more than 12 players.

Emperor Julius Caesar, who may even have played himself, used it to maintain his soldiers' physical fitness.

There are records of a harpastum match between the Romans and the native British, which the settlers won.

Though the Rugby World Cup trophy is named after William Webb Ellis, as is Ellis park in Johannesburg, rugby's roots are not known definitively.

Ellis went to Rugby School from 1816 to 1825. It was there that he is said to have picked up the ball during a football match.

Mr Ash said the WRU had not yet responded to his revelation that Wales is the true home of rugby, though he is hopeful the Italian rugby union might.

For an earlier item on the same subject (with some interesting links), see this post (you'll have to scroll down).