Gilbert have been making the finest rugby balls from their headquarters in Robertsbridge, England since 1823, creating balls for training through to match balls and international replica balls.
Gilbert goes back further than 1823, as the company began as a boot and shoe maker affiliated to Rugby School, The business was run from of a small shop within the town which later became Grays sports shop. After rugby was established, Gilbert changed their ball form from being plum shaped to being more oval due to the introduction of pig’s bladder, which has since been replaced with synthetic bladders for today’s game. As the sport began to become more well-known, Gilbert Rugby balls grew bigger as a business and received several awards in London. The first rubber bladder was invented by Richard Lindop in 1875, this improved passing and handling drastically.
Founder and inventor William Gilbert died in 1877, but the business was carried on by his nephew James. Sales increased and Gilbert steadily started manufacturing 2,800 balls a year. As the game gained more and more traction so did the Gilbert business, soon they were exporting ball to countries such as Australia along with other rugby nations and the export side of the business inflated quickly.
In 1946 Gilbert partnered with Glasgow football manufacturer Thomlinson’s who took charge of marketing the brand until the 1970s. Throughout this time Gilbert match balls were still the ball of choice.
After a difficult time with new materials and brands emerging the GIlbert family decided to sell the business in 1978. Grays showed interest but did not purchase the company until 2002. They continued to honour the Gilbert brand, leading the way in ball technology, design and quality. They portrayed this through the X-act ball, delivering the best ever performance from a rugby ball and it was featured successfully during the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
in 2019, Gilbert were once again chosen as the official ball supplier to the Rugby World Cup, which took place between the 20th September and the 2nd November 2019, and saw 20 of the best rugby playing nations battle out it head to head for the Rugby’s most prestigious award the Webb Ellis Cup.
At First XV Rugbystuff.com we stock a wide range of training and match rugby balls, alongside replica balls from clubs, nations and competitions around the world.