LIVERPOOL St Helens FC are now telling the story of the formation, development, trials, tribulations and triumphs of the oldest open rugby club in the world.

After being awarded a Heritage Lottery Grant in 2016, a touring exhibition officially launches today.

In partnership with the Liverpool Record Office, St Helens and Liverpool libraries, St Helens College, Edge Hill University and Cowley School, the club have established a comprehensive archive, cataloguing and preserving documents and photographs.

The exhibition, which will visit five St Helens libraries before May 25, is accompanied by a booklet and a learning resource pack for primary school pupils.

‘The Birth of Club Rugby’ spans three centuries and is a tale of three clubs, Liverpool FC, St Helens RUFC and the current club Liverpool St Helens, following the merger in 1986.

It begins on December 19, 1857, when Richard Sykes brought a rugby ball from Rugby School to Liverpool to play a match against his friend Frank Albert Mather.

The game was played, 20-a-side, and the club was formed.

The exhibition features stories, pictures and illustrations including the story of the Chavasse twins, Christopher a player and Noel a member, the recipient of two VC medals.

And then the focus turns to the impact of World War One on the team, with five players not returning.

The formation of St Helens Old boys by Old Cowlean pupils in 1919 and the subsequent generosity of Colonel Pilkington to the club are highlighted.

There’s a look at how both clubs helped the war effort from 1939 to 1945 when all rugby was stopped; the successful years from the 1950s when Liverpool was one of the country’s leading clubs, through to the merger in 1986 and beyond.

It also charts the development of the game itself, including the formation of the Northern Union and Rugby League in 1895, the growth of professionalism in the 15-man code and covers such issues as changing trends in kit throughout the ages.

The club have fielded 57 Internationals from 1871 to the present day including Mike Slemen, the club’s most capped player; Kevin Simms; Nigel Heslop; Ray French; Fran Cotton; Martin Regan and Dewi Morris.

The Mayor of St Helens, Cllr Joe Pearson, will be joined by LSH president Ray French in officially opening the exhibition at Parr Library today, Thursday, at 1pm.

Library exhibition dates: Parr, Feb 5-23; Rainford, Feb 26-March 16; Chester Lane, March 19-April 6; Newton, Apr 9-27; Eccleston, April 30-May 25.