Rugby League vs. Rugby Union – What’s the Difference?

Rugby, League, Union, Players, Field, Sport

Rugby League vs. Rugby Union – what’s the difference? That’s the topic I cover in this blog post.

When you’re done reading, you’ll have a solid overview of the key differences in the rules and some of the history of the Rugby League vs. Union.

I look at the history first and then cover the Rugby League and Rugby Union differences. After that, I give you some tips for betting on both. Let’s get started.

History of Rugby League and Union

Here are some important historical facts relevant to the Rugby Union vs. League debate.


Rugby Union is the original. The Rugby Football Union was founded in 1871 by English clubs. Rugby League started in 1895 when the Northern Rugby Football Union broke away from the RFU because of a disagreement about paying players.

The two quickly spread to Australia and New Zealand. A similar split occurred in 1907 Down Under.

In Rugby League’s early days (1905), the Lancashire and Yorkshire Cups were introduced alongside the Lancashire and Yorkshire leagues. Thus, there were four trophies available to any given team. Winning all four was the ultimate goal.

It wasn’t until 1995 that Rugby Union recognized professional players and allowed World Rugby to govern the game. It has always remained an amateur league until then, and pro players had even been banned.

Rugby League vs. Rugby Union Rules

There are some notable rule differences between Rugby League and Rugby Union matches.

I’ve listed the most important ones to note below. These should have some influence on your betting decisions as they impact the flow of gameplay, could impact prop bets, and more.


The first thing to look at is how many points are awarded for tries, conversions, penalties, and drop goals. It differs significantly. Keep this in mind when rugby betting.

 Rugby UnionRugby League
Try5 points4 points
Conversion2 points2 points
Penalty3 points2 points
Drop Goal3 points1 point


Rugby League has two teams of 13 players. Rugby Union has two teams of 15. Rugby League allows ten substitutions, whereas Rugby Union only allows eight.


In Rugby Union, when someone is tackled, a ruck forms. In Rugby League, the tackled player rolls the ball back with his foot, and a ‘chicken scratch’ occurs.

Futher Info:

Also, a team can only be tackled six times in Rugby League before they have to give up ball possession (via kick). In Rugby Union, no such rule exists.

Off-Pitch Balls

A scrum involving eight players occurs when a ball goes out of bounds in Rugby League. In Rugby Union, a lineout occurs. This is the equivalent of a throw-in in soccer.


Rugby League has a bigger pitch. It measures between 112 and 122 meters long and 68 meters wide, with the distance between try lines being 100 meters.

In Rugby Union, the pitch is between 106 and 144 meters long and 68 to 70 meters wide. The try lines in a Rugby Union pitch can be between 94 and 100 meters.

Rugby Union vs. Rugby League Popularity

In our discussion of Rugby Union vs. Rugby League, we need to consider the popularity of both. Here we have a clear winner: Rugby Union is by far more popular.

Why so? It has something to do with where they’re popular. Rugby League is only really followed in England, New Zealand, and Australia, but Rugby Union is followed worldwide.

As well as being mainstream in the three countries we just mentioned, it has fans in South Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific Island nations.

In the Rugby League vs. Rugby Union debate, the pace seems to play a big role. Rugby Union is undoubtedly more fast-paced. Rugby League, by contrast, involved a lot more defending and kicking.

Rugby League vs. Rugby Union Betting

There are some things to be aware of when betting on these two different types of rugby. These are obvious tips once you understand the games, but they might not seem so apparent at first.

  • Rugby Union games almost always have higher scores than Rugby League games. That’s because of the higher number of points awarded for each try, kick, penalty, conversion, etc.
  • Because the number of points awarded in league games is fewer than in Union games, the games are often tighter. That means they can go either way. In Rugby Union, dominant teams obliterate their opponents much more often.
  • Rugby Union games also proceed at a faster pace than Rugby League games. This is down to the flow of the game because of the rule differences. This can have an impact on proposition bets like ball possession, the number of tries scored, substitutions, etc.
  • Statistically, Rugby League games have many more kicks than Rugby Union games. This can impact the score and leads to a higher number of kicks overall. You can make prop bets on that, so keep it in mind.


If you’re interested in betting on Rugby League or Rugby Union games for real money, you can do so on the best rugby betting sites.

They’ve all been vetted and approved by our team of sports betting pros and offer free bets, fast payouts, and top-notch customer service.

Jim Beviglia
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About Jim Beviglia
Jim Beviglia has been a gambling writer at since 2018. During that time, he’s written just about every type of article related to gambling, including reviews of betting sites, guides to popular casino games, betting tips on both casino and sports betting, sports and casino blog posts, and game picks. In addition to online gambling, one of Jim’s other major interests is music. He has been doing freelance work for various music sites and magazines for two decades. Among his outlets past and present are American Songwriter, VinylMePlease, Treble, and The Bluegrass Situation. Jim has also written five books on music that were published by Rowman & Littlefield.