Rugby League vs Rugby Union: What’s the Difference?

By Marsh

Posted 15/08/18

Rugby League vs Rugby Union: What’s the Difference?

Rugby league and rugby union may sound like the same sport but they are very different. League is generally favoured in pockets of the north of England with many teams originating in Yorkshire and Greater Manchester while its counterpart union is played all around the UK.

There are a few key differences to both codes that appeal to audiences and make them seem like very different games.

Why are There Different Codes? [1]

It all comes down to money. In 1895, clubs in northern England held a meeting at the George Hotel in Huddersfield. Up until that point, rugby teams weren’t allowed to compensate players who lost wages by playing matches instead of working.

Some 22 northern clubs banded together to form the Northern Rugby Union. Within just three years they had managed to progress to open professionalism with the strict rule that every player had to have a “proper” job. Paying players a wage meant the sport needed to have wide appeal to bring in the wages. So they devised brand new rules.

What are the Differences Between Rugby Union and League?

For starters there are only 13 players in rugby league instead of 15. Likewise, rugby league doesn’t have rucks or mauls and scrums are less common. Instead, when play needs to be reset the tackled rugby league player simply rolls the ball backwards to his teammate with his foot. This means the game is commonly considered faster as resets are always quick. [2]

There is also a tackle count in league which doesn’t exist in union. Teams are given a total of six tackles before they have to hand over possession to the opposing team. [3]

Scoring also varies slightly across both codes with union awarding more points for a try, drop goal and a penalty. [4]

What’s Changed Recently?

Rugby union didn’t officially become a professional sport until 1995 by which time it was expected the popularity of league may die out. But this certainly isn’t the case. [5] [6]

Both sports are different enough to have built up a solid following so the expected decline in popularity hasn’t happened to a degree that panics fans and players.

In fact since union became professional, there has been a small number of players who have converted codes. Notably New Zealand All Blacks hero Sonny Bill Williams and Wales international Jonathan “Jiffy” Davies. [7]











Posted 15/08/18

Author: Marsh

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