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Rugby/rugby union versus rugby league


Could you tell me what the differences are between Rugby Union and Rugby League?


Thank you for the question. The basic answer is that rugby league has 13 players, rugby union has 15. Most of the laws are similar or identical, but there are bigger differences. For example, Union puts a lot of emphasis on scrums and line-outs (when the ball goes out of play). League has both but they are really incidental to the game. On the other hand a League team has 6 tackles to score a try before it goes to the opposition. The upshot is that League is a more running game, Union has more set pieces. This website gives a table with more details:

The differences are getting less and less. Union has changed its laws radically over the last 10 years and sometimes I have to watch a game for 5 minutes or so before working out which code is being played.

Historically there are big cultural differences. League was in Britain and Australia the working man's game. It was professional at its top layers (because the miners lost a days pay playing on a Saturday). Union was the game for the middle classes and was amateur up to and including national level (they worked Mondays to Fridays and didn't need the money). Again over the last 10 years that has broken down since Union players are professional at the senior end of the game, and League is struggling to afford wages bills in the middle layer of the game.

I hope this is helpful,

best wishes


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Chris Galley


I have played rugby for 23 years, since I was 10 years old. I am a loosehead prop, club secretary, and I`ve got refereeing and coaching qualifications. I can answer questions on the laws of the game, how the game works, how to get started, the sport`s structures, and club management.

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