Rugby League Explained
What is Rugby League?
For the majority of Canadians when they hear the term "Rugby" they think of the 15-aside version of the game known as Rugby Union ("Union"). Rugby League ("League"), as a 13-aside sport, has had a relatively recent introduction to Canada which has largely been increased by the exposure from the Toronto Wolfpack (the world's first trans-Atlantic professional sports team that competes in the top division of England's Professional Rugby League) and the Ottawa Aces (a new professional team looking to start play in 2021).
Rugby League has a storied past having separated from Union in 1895, largely as a consequence of social and economic inequality in England.
The Rules of Rugby League
For Canadians familiar with Union, Rugby League will largely look like a hybrid of "Gridiron" football ("Football"). During play, the game resembles that of Union. The ball must be passed backwards and only advanced forward by kicking, the play of the ball by grounding the ball, dropping or "knocking-on" the ball results in a scrum, drop-goals in play, and tries are converted by penalty goals. With respect to those familiar with the idea of "downs" in Football, League permits 6 tackles to progress forward before possession is changed over. Instead of a line of scrimmage where defenders line-up next to the ball in the NFL, or one yard from the ball in the CFL on the snap, Rugby League requires defenders to retreat 10 yards before advancing after the "play of the ball".
Rugby League is a fast-paced game that is extremely spectator friendly. There are fewer rules in sport than in Union which encourages fast flowing rugby and a play of the ball. The game is not slowed down for rucks and scrum resets as it is in union nor are there huddles as in Football. As such, the game demands an exceptional level of fitness and far more touches of the ball than in union or football.
The Differences between Rugby League and Rugby Union (PG-13 for language)
Where is Rugby League Played?
Rugby League has two large professional sporting competitions in Australia (which includes one team located in New Zealand) and in England (with one team located in Canada). It is the national sport in Papau New Guinea and is also popular in New Zealand, France, Wales, Ireland, Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, and Lebanon.
The Rugby League World Cup for men has been contested 15 times with Australia serving as champions 11 times, Great Britain 3 times (most recently in 1972), and New Zealand 1 time in 2008. The Rugby League World Cup for women has been contested 5 times with New Zealand winning 3 times and Australia 2 times.
The next Rugby League World Cup is featured in England in October and November 2021 (postponed till 2022). Canada's women's team enters the tournament as the fifth ranked team.