Rugby League and Rugby Union, what are the key differences and how does it affect betting?
For outsiders the difference between the two codes of rugby might seem marginal and indeed the basic principle of both games – carrying the ball into the opponents in-goal while only passing it backwards – is the same. Also the size of the pitch, the 80 min. length of a game, the shape of the ball, the off-side rule and the tackling and kicking techniques are exactly the same. But since 1895, when the northern English rugby clubs broke away from the London-based Rugby Football Union over a dispute about professionalism to form the Rugby Football League, the games have slowly but surely drifted apart.
Rugby League has over the years abolished contested rucks, mauls, line-outs, scrums and the rules of the game allow each team six carries at a time with the ball, before it has to be handed over (which rarely happens, because teams usually kick for territory or towards in goal on the last carry). However after every phase, i.e. an attacking player having been brought to ground, the defending team has to retreat 10 meters, allowing the attack to advance with easy hit ups in early phases.
All these rule changes allow for a more free-flowing, albeit somewhat more monotonous game. The fact that Rugby League is played with 13 players instead of the 15 players on the pitch in Union, means that an average game of League yields more tries. Those are worth 4 points in League and 5 in Union with the conversion worth 2 points in either game. Successful penalty kicks are worth 2 points in League and three in Union.
Due to the points scoring system, League scores are almost exclusively consisting of even numbers. Only drop goals are worth a solitary point, but a team would only try to score one if the game is in the balance and time is up. Therefore betting on an odd points difference or a team scoring a drop goal would be a more than risky proposition.
Also League games do not end in draws, overtime is added if a score is tied after 80 minutes, opposed to Union games that can end in a draw. The golden point rule employed in the Australian NRL League competition means that whoever scores first in overtime, wins the match. The 2015 final being the most prominent example of a game decided by a drop goal in overtime in favor of the Cowboys.
In Terms of popularity, Union is far more widespread globally with professional teams in many commonwealth countries plus Japan, France, Argentina, South Africa and a professional league being currently set up in the United States. On the other hand only the very popular Australian NRL and the English Super League are fully professional Rugby League competitions.
While in Union the pinnacle of the game is the world cup and to a lesser degree the Six Nations, League‘s most hyped game is the annual clash of the two biggest Australian states, New South Wales and Queensland, in their 3 game state of origin series. These three games are the biggest date on the Australian sporting calendar every year and therefore are also the most betted on games down under, with the most exotic prop bets available to bet on.
When betting on games later on in a season, a well informed punter should be aware that some Union and League competitions have a relegation and promotion system in place, while others do not. In the Australian NRL for example in a match up between a top four contender vying for a play off spot and a team that has nothing to play for anymore, since the threat of being relegated is not a consideration at all, an upset involving the underdog beating the top four side is even less likely than it normally would be.
Here‘s an overview of which League and Union competitions are a closed shop and which have a relegation / promotion system in place:
Quintessentially both games remain very similar, one might think of them as the two sides of the same coin. With players switching back and forth between the codes and countless examples of stars excelling in the 13 and 15 man game. However as fine margins decide about the outcome of games, a well informed punter should get thoroughly acquainted with the ins and outs of both games, before placing any bets on them. Following some of our tipsters, that publish well written analysis of games, might be a good way to get started.