Rugby is a team sport which is the predecessor to American Football. It’s essentially the same activity, however, there are several differences in rules and equipment. Needless to say, rugby is more physical and is a more dangerous sport. It’s very popular in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, etc. Besides local and international tournaments, there is a version of this sport which is played in the Olympics.
What is important to note are the different forms of the sport played all over the world. Following the 1895 split in rugby football, the two forms rugby league and rugby union differed in administration only. Soon the rules of R-league were modified, resulting in two distinctly different forms of the sport. 100 years later, R-union joined R-league and most other forms of football as an openly professional sport. Keep reading to find out more about this sport and the history behind it.
The first versions of this sport can be traced back all the way to ancient times. Greeks and Romans were known to play a lot of sports that involved a ball. One such game was called harpastum, and according to records, it was very similar to rugby football. Nevertheless, this sport really became known in the world somewhere around the 11th century. Starting then, for around 700 years a lot of different versions of Rugby were played all across Britain.
Nevertheless, the modern version of the sport was established near the end of the 19th century. In 1871, English clubs met to form the Rugby Football Union (RFU). In 1892, after charges of professionalism (compensation of team members) were made against some clubs for paying players for missing work, the Northern Union (NU), was formed. The existing authorities responded by issuing sanctions against the clubs, players, and officials involved in the new organization. After the schism, the separate clubs were named “R-league” and “R-Union“.
With time, the separation turned into two different, although very similar, sports. The two different versions have different organizations who control them. Additionally, there is a small difference in the rules as well. The Rugby League is the older and original versions which is why it’s more popular. However, the R-league is very close behind them and grows in popularity every day.
Rules Similarities & Differences
Most of the rules for the two different versions of the sport are same or similar. However, there are some distinctive differences who are the reason why the activity is considered to be two different sports. For instance, running with the oval ball is same in both rugby codes. You can’t throw the ball forward to gain advantage. That can only be done by running with the ball. It’s important to note that in both versions the players don’t wear protective armor. That’s the main difference between rugby and American Football.
Nevertheless, we have to mention the differences. The biggest one is that in league the teams have 13 players while union has 15. The rest of the differences are connected to the tackle and its aftermath. For example:
- Union players contest possession following the tackle: depending on the situation, either a ruck or a maul can occur. League players may not contest possession after making a tackle: play is continued with a play-the-ball.
- In league, if the team in possession fails to score before a set of six tackles, it surrenders possession. Union has no six-tackle rule; a team can keep the ball for an unlimited number of tackles before scoring as long as it maintains possession and does not commit an offence.
Last but not least, we have to mention the “scrum” which is vital to Rugby. The scrum is used when some of the rules have been broken. When that happens, packs of opposing players push against each other in order to win possession. This is very important in the union code. However, in the league code, the importance of the scrum is greatly reduced.
Organisations & Tournaments
As we mentioned above, in 1895 Rugby split in two sports. The original one is known as the Rugby League and it’s governed by the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF). You can learn more about it on their official website. On the other hand, the other sport is known as the Rugby Union. It wasn’t recognized as an official sport until 1995. The governing body for it is known as World Rugby since 2014. You can check their credentials on this website.
Both organisations have their own tournaments. The main ones are the World Cups. RLIF organizes a tournament known as the Four Nations Tournament and a couple of other smaller competitions. World Rugby, besides a World Cup, has the Olympics competition. It’s known as the sevens series and it’s the version of the sport that is played on the Olympics. Additionally, Union also organizes the Rugby World Cup Sevens, the World Under 20 Championship, and the Pacific Nations Cup.
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