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Rugby League vs. Union Play

If you are new to rugby betting, one of the first things you will learn is that there are two different “codes” of game play.  These are referred to as “Rugby League” and “Rugby Union”. Both Rugby League and Rugby Union share the same basic game rules and are available for betting on the best british betting sites.  They also both use a similarly shaped ball.  But there are some critical differences between the two.


Rugby League

In Rugby League games, there are 13 active players on each team with 10 substitutions permitted throughout the course of the match. 

The goal of the game is simple.  Each team must attempt to advance the ball down the field to score a goal.  The opposing team must use tackling to prevent this whilst simultaneously attempting to score themselves.  If a player is tackled, that person must drop the ball and roll it back with their foot so someone else can get it. 

Only a finite number of tackles are permitted.  Once that limit is reached, the ball transfers to the other team.  If it is out of play, the opposing team receives a scrum, which usually means they also get possession.  There are usually 6 players in any given scrum. 

How are points awarded?  A try gets you four points while a goal gets you two points.  A field goal or drop goal results in one point.


Rugby Union

Now let’s talk about Rugby Union.  While Rugby League has 13 players per team, Rugby Union has 15 players on each side.  Instead of 10 substitutions for each side, only 7 are allowed in Rugby Union. 

The goal of play is again to advance the ball across the field.  Players can score either by kicking the ball through the goal posts or by touching it down beyond the try line. 

What happens during a tackle?  If a player is tackled, anyone can pick up the ball, no matter which team they are on.  They must be standing and coming from an onside position.  There is no limit to the number of tackles.  Scrums are awarded for different infringements, and typically involve eight players, not six. 

How do points distribute?  For a try, you get five points, for a drop goal or a penalty kick, you get three points, and for a conversion kick you earn two points. 


Which form of rugby is more demanding?  Arguments can be made in either direction, but generally speaking, the ball is in play more often during Rugby League.  There are also fewer players per team, which means more work covering the field.  Neither form of rugby is objectively “better” than the other, but you will often hear fans debating the merits of each and squabbling over whether League games or Union games are more exciting. 


Historically, Rugby Union has been the province of public school systems.  Players who didn’t have time for Rugby Union would typically turn to Rugby League, which provided payment.  That has made Rugby League more popular with the working class.  That class division is still quite evident today, both in the UK and elsewhere around the world.  There is also a geographic split where Rugby Union is more prevalent in the South of the UK and Rugby League plays a bigger role in the North.


Nonetheless, players may sometimes switch from one code to another.  For some, this is a challenging transition; others are renowned for their flexibility in adapting to a different system.  This adds yet another fascinating dimension to a sport which frequently features intensely varied play styles.  It is one more factor to watch out for when you are handicapping teams and players!

To find out more about rugby betting read on why you should bet on rugby, the rugby events available to bet on and the types of bets you could place on rugby.


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