What are the Differences Between the Rugby Union and Rugby League?

If you decide to pick up rugby today and began either watching it or playing it, you would be amazed that there are two forms of the game. That’s right, rugby is not as unique as you might think. There are two forms of it that are generally accepted – the Rugby Union and the Rugby League.

Although very similar, the two are at the same time very much different.

But how actually different are they? We find that out today!

Union vs League

In 1871, the Rugby Football Union was formed in order to regulate the game of rugby. The idea was to establish a set of rules and to help the game become playable and more interesting to others. However, even in establishing how the game needs to be played, the Union never really strived for becoming professional.

Therefore, a number of players decided to make their own code. Most of the teams from Yorkshire had working-class players on their teams. They wanted a way to compensate them when they were missing work. So they formed their own set of rules and created what will eventually be called the Rugby League.

Different Rules

The main on-field difference between the Rugby Union and the Rugby League is the number of players on the field and substitutions allowed. The Rugby Union allows 15 plays from one team to play while the League has 13. The Rugby League allows 10 substitutes during the match while the Union offers only 8.

With more subs allowed it results in the match being played longer. However, it does require higher levels of fitness as well and results in more on-field injuries during the match. Due to fewer players involved, the pitch used for Rugby League games is also smaller.

Different Point Codes

The point system between the Rugby Union and the Rugby League is also different. According to the rules set by the Union, a try will give you 5 points, a conversion score you 2 points, while penalties and drop goals provide you with 3 points.

The system in the Rugby League grants you 4 points for a try, a conversion adds 2 points to the tally, penalties are worth 2 points and drop points score you 1 point.


Another important difference to consider between the Rugby Union and the Rugby League are the tackles. In the Rugby Union, when a player is tackled a ruck will form with each player from the opposing side joining in to contest for the ball. But in the Rugby League, a ruck does not exist. Instead, the player must roll the ball back with his feet and a scrap ensues where every player from both sides tries to get the ball on their own terms.

In the Rugby League, if the ball is kicked off the field and scrum will ensue where 8 players will pack down to give the ones in the back more space to run into. But in the Rugby Union, if the ball is kicked off the field a lineout will be executed from the position where the ball exited the field of play.

In the Rugby League, there is also a tackle limit and 6 are allowed. On the other hand, in the Rugby Union, there is no tackle limit and teams can go as many phases as they want.