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Difference Between Rugby League and Rugby Union

rugby-pdRugby League vs Rugby Union

Rugby is a sport developed in spread areas within the United Kingdom. Playing the earliest form of the rugby game wasn’t the invention of the game, but rather the events that led to the game being coded are seen as the ‘invention’ of rugby.

Rugby Union is a professional, as well as an amateur game, and first tier unions dominating the sport include England, France, Argentina, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, Wales and South Africa. It is run by the International Rugby Board headquartered in Dublin, Ireland. In countries like South Africa, New Zealand, Fiji, Wales, Samoa and Tonga, Rugby Union is the national sport. Rugby Union is the most popular type of rugby worldwide.

Rugby League, like the Union, is both a professional and amateur sport, run globally by the Rugby League International Federation.

The oval ball is a key feature common to both forms of rugby. As well, the ban on passing the ball forward is another of the two distinct features common to both forms. Others include tackling and tactical kicking

Although historically there were big differences due to culture, the differences are gradually getting less, as Union has had its laws drastically changed over the past years. Besides the number of players (13 for League and 15 for Union), the major differences between Union and League centers around the tackle, and what happens after that.

After the tackle, players in the Union fight for possession, and depending on what the situation is, a ‘ruck’ or a ‘maul’ can take place. League players though, may not contest possession after a tackle. Play goes on with a ‘play-the-ball’. As well, the six tackle rule applies in League, while in Union, it does not apply. This is basically where a team surrenders possession when it doesn’t score before a set of six tackles. With the rugby union, a team may keep possession for an unlimited number of tackles before they score, as long as they keep the ball and no foul is committed.

The Union has the ‘scrum’ and the ‘lineout’ as set pieces. The scrum involves opposing players pushing against each other for the ball, and the lineout is where players from either team line up parallel to each other, but perpendicular to the side line (touch-line), and then try to catch the ball when it is thrown from ‘touch’.

The League however, has the scrum, but with far less importance, and is not often contested. As well, fewer players make up the scrum in the League. Here, set pieces start from play-the-ball scenarios.
For both the Union and League, positions share names and requirements, but Rugby League does not have flankers, while there are flankers in the Union.

Rugby League has 13 players, while Union has 15 players.
In the Union, players contest possession after tackle, while in the League, they may not contest possession after tackle.
The League has the six-tackle rule, while in the Union it does not apply.
The league doesn’t place great importance on the scrum, while in the Union, it is a set-piece.
For player positions, the League has got no flankers, while the Union has flankers.

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  1. A lot of Rugby players dislike either league or Union. Me? I think both are great in different ways. Your article explains ity very well – good stuff

  2. I think for the average joe Rugby Union is more fun to watch, its very active and competitive. The league seems so slow paced. A bit like test cricket vs the 20:20 series; both have their perks.

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