Rugby League Match Ball

Rugby League

We all know the game of rugby. Eleven a side, players as big as boulders running at each other, scrums, lineouts, mauls, drives. It’s undoubtedly one of the best and most entertaining games in the world, but did you know that it has a counterpart?

That’s right, apart from Rugby Union, there is a second version of rugby known as Rugby League. Universally recognised as Rugby Union’s rather unruly twin, this is a game that aspires to be faster, with athletes chosen for their skill and agility rather than how many weights they can lift in the gym. 

Although it might not be as popular as Rugby Union, it has grown throughout the years, and many Rugby Union players have actually played in both codes, using their star power to rack up even higher audiences. 

But why exactly are there two versions of rugby and how did Rugby League start? Well, before we get into that, let’s first look at the basics of the game:

Rugby League: The 101

  • In Rugby League, each side fields 13 players, with 4 substitutes allowed on the bench. 
  • The aim of the game, like Rugby Union, is to get the ball down the length of the pitch to score a try.
  • When a player is tackled, however, there are no rucks or mauls. Instead, the tackled player must drop the ball and roll it behind themselves to a fellow team member.
  • In one state of play, there is a finite tackle limit. When it is reached, the ball must be handed over to the opposing team. 
  • A try in Rugby League is worth 4 points, with the following conversion worth 2 points. A penalty is also worth 2 points, whilst a drop goal is worth 1 point.
  • Since its inception, Rugby League has grown from strength to strength. In the UK alone, the last World Cup final was watched by more than 18.7 million people, making it the most-watched Rugby League World Cup of all time. 

A Disgruntled History Of Rugby League

Although Rugby Union and Rugby League exist in harmony today, it didn’t really start that way. Back in the late 1800s, the RFU was determined to stay true to the sport’s amateurism, but the introduction of certain competitions like the Yorkshire Challenge Cup was damaging the idea of this. During this time, players were not able to be compensated if they missed work to play, which was ultimately excluding working-class men from playing the game.

Rugby was already seen to be a sport primarily for upper-class people, but working-class clubs wanted to get involved and have the time and money to form their own tournaments. In 1883, a motion was put in front of the RFU to fix the setbacks. A move to pay for “broken time” was, however, quashed by 282 votes to 136. Instead, players and teams were prosecuted for missing work. In 1895, the RFU announced that any player or club being accused of “professionalism” would be suspended from the game until they could provide evidence against it. 

This then led to 22 rugby clubs meeting to form a breakaway rugby union known as Northern Rugby Football Union. These teams included:

  • Batley
  • Bradford
  • Brighouse Rangers
  • Broughton Rangers
  • Halifax
  • Huddersfield FC
  • Hull FC
  • Hunslet
  • Leeds
  • Leigh
  • Liversedge
  • Manningham
  • Oldham
  • Rochdale Hornets
  • Runcorn
  • Stockport
  • St Helens
  • Tyldesley
  • Wakefield Trinity
  • Warrington
  • Widnes
  • Wigan

In 1922, the NRFU changed its name to the Northern Rugby Football League and altered the rules of rugby to make the game more enjoyable and entertaining for crowds – who were their only source of revenue. The size of teams was reduced, the drop goal was devalued, lineouts were dropped and scrums were reduced. As a result, the speed of play was accelerated and the rules were simplified for the spectators.

Over the years, this new version of the game began to find its feet in countries other than England. In 1933, France staged its first-ever Rugby League match, which was a friendly international between Great Britain and Australia. Because of the success of the event, France formed its own Rugby League in 1934, which was followed by the creation of 225 league clubs in 1939. The worldwide acknowledgement of the game grew even further in 1948, when the first televised match took place between Wigan and Bradford. 

In 1954, Rugby League became the first rugby code to put on a World Cup tournament, with Great Britain ultimately beating France to win their first of three World Cup trophies. Later, in 1996, the British Super League was formed – which is one of the most popular leagues today. This saw the sport move to a summer season, with three divisions covering the entirety of the UK, as well as Southern France. The sport has since moved even further into the spotlight, with record audience figures for the most recent world cup and a league that rivals even the Rugby Union premiership.

Rugby League: DAZN Bet’s Pop Quiz

So, it was a disagreement between the RFU and the rugby clubs around England that spurred on the creation of the Rugby League, but thankfully that disagreement has led to a thrilling counterpart to the game; great for those who want a simplified, faster version of Rugby Union, and great for lovers of Rugby Union who just want even more rugby on the television during the summer. 

If you are planning to tune in during 2023, however, you need a bit more context under your belt. With this in mind, here are a few questions and answers to give you an idea of the big facts and stats that the game has garnered over its long history:

What Is The Most Popular Rugby League?

There are many big tournaments in Rugby League, but the two most popular are the Australian/New Zealand Rugby League and the British Super League.

What Is The Most Successful Rugby League Team?

Wigan is the most successful club in Rugby League. They have won 22 championships, 20 Challenge Cups and 4 World Club Challenges in their history.

Which Player Has Scored The Most Rugby League Tries?

Brian Bevan, an Australian Rugby League star, is one of the legends of the game. He scored an unbelievable 757 tries between 1942 and 1964.

Which Player Has Kicked The Most Rugby League Points?

The record for the most goals kicked is held by Jason Taylor, another legend of the game, who totalled 942 goals in his career.

Who Won The Last Rugby League World Cup?

The last Rugby League World Cup Final was played between Samoa and Australia. In a tense stand-off at Old Trafford, Australia eventually ran away with the trophy, beating Samoa by 30 points to 10. The next World Cup is set to be held in France in 2025, and with Rugby League only continuing to grow in popularity, it’s set to be the best yet.