Rugby league

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

(Redirected from Rugby League)
Jump to: navigation, search

Rugby league is one of the two codes of rugby, the other being rugby union.

Rugby league is a team sport, played by two teams of 13 players. The aim is to carry an oval ball up the field towards the opponents in-goal where the ball is grounded to score a try. The opposing team attempts to prevent the attacking team from carrying out this objective by tackling the player with the ball.

Rugby league started out as a break away faction of the original Rugby Football Union in England, known as the Northern Union. The Northern Union rules changed and international expansion took place. The Northern Union dropped the use of the word 'union' in its title and changed its name to the Rugby Football League following similar moves in other nations. Thus, the game became known as rugby league.

Gateshead Thunder take on Limoux in the Challenge Cup.
Gateshead Thunder take on Limoux in the Challenge Cup.



Main article: History of rugby league

Rugby league's roots can be traced to early football history, like most forms of football, through the playing of ball games, which bear little resemblance to modern games. It is then important to acknowledge the development of the modern codes and two separate schisms in football history.

During the period when private schools were the most important players of football, each school had its own rules based on the playing field that was available to them. However, each school could generally be categorised as playing either handling or kicking forms of football. The kicking and handling forms were later codified by the Football Association and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) respectively.

Rugby football later incurred the schism of 1895 which resulted in the formation of the rebel Northern Rugby Football Union (NRFU). It was this schism and similar movements in other countries that lead to a division in rugby football. The NRFU's rules soon changed, and organisations allied to the NRFU changed their names from union to league, hence the names, rugby league and rugby union.

Playing rugby league

Typical markings for a rugby league field
Typical markings for a rugby league field
Main article: Playing rugby league

Rugby league is played by two teams on a rectangular field with a length generally double the width. The in-goal areas, located at each end of the field, are used to scoring a try. At the intersection between the field of play and each in-goal area are also a set of goal posts in the shape of the capital letter H, used for point scoring via a field goal, penalty goal or conversion.

Rugby league consists of an attacking team who has possession of the ball and a defending team who must attempt to stop the attacking team from scoring. In order to score points the attacking team must move up field. To do this they use a combination of kicking and running head-on into the defensive line to either force back the defence or break the defensive line. The defence must devise tactics that limit the effectiveness of the attacking teams ball running and kicking.

An attacking team has six 'chances' to score a try or a field goal; known as the six tackle rule. The defensive team reduces the chances an attacking team has to score by tackling the player with the ball; a tackle forces a stoppage of play. Following a tackle, the defending team, with the exception of two markers, must move back 10 metres towards their in-goal area. The attacking team restarts play and continue with their next chance to score via the play the ball.

After each tackle the attacking team is usually closer to the oppositions in-goal area and hence goal posts. If the attacking team is tackled a sixth time, a change over takes place, where the defending team becomes attacking and visa versa.

Attacking Tactics

  • The largest players generally move the ball up field through what is known as a hit up in order push back the defence; in other words gain field position.
  • Skilful forwards will attempt pass the ball after drawing in the defence which breaks down the effectiveness of the defensive line; known as an off-load.
  • The attacking team may use combinations of plays utilising speed, passing and kicking designed to confuse the defence, breaking down the effectiveness of the defensive line.
  • Kicking is most commonly attempted as a last ditch attempt to score, when a team has used all of its 'chances'. Kicks are used to break the defensive line or to gain field position.

Defensive Tactics

  • A defending team must effectively defend against ball runners. The sliding defence and the umbrella defence are effective in stopping line breaks.
  • Players in the defence usually drop out of the defensive line to cover the back half of the field in order to defend against line breaks and kicks.
  • A defensive team may force the attacking team in to touch or force errors which gives possession to the defending team.
  • Late during the tackle count an attacking team uses an array of tactics to put themselves in the better defensive position on the opposite side of the 'change over'.


Main article: Rugby league positions

Players on field are divided into forwards and backs. Each position has a designated number, 1 through to 13. Numbers 14 and higher are given to players on the bench, who only come on to the field to replace a starting player who is either injured or tired.


The backs are generally smaller and more athletic. Backs are likely the most creative and evasive players on the field, preferring fine skills, tactics and/or set plays to break the defensive line in favour of brute force.

  • The title of full-back comes from the fullbacks defensive position where the player drops out of the defence line to cover the back half of the field.
  • The wings or wing three quarters may be the fastest players in a team and are responsible the left and right most portions of the field.
  • The centres or centre three-quarters are positioned one in from the wings and together complete what is known as the three-quarter line.
  • The half-back or scrum-half in recent times have taken on a leadership role which has lead them to be considered the player that gives a team direction in attack. The term half-back comes from the position of the player relative to the team line and the scrum.
  • The stand off or 5-8th is usual seen as another centre or half back and could be considered an 'all rounder' they do not have any set duties.

The half-back position mentioned above is named after the role or location of the player with respect to the scrum during 'scrum play' or scrummage. To understand the half back or any other players role in the scrum, see rugby league positions.


The forwards two responsibilities can be broken into 'normal play' and 'scrum play'. For information on a forwards role in the scrum see rugby league scrummage. Forward positions are traditionally named after the players position in the scrum yet are equal with respect to 'normal play' with the exception of the hooker. Forward positions are traditionally broken into:

  • front row forwards (two prop forwards and a hooker).
    • Props are normally the largest players on field and usually weigh over 100 kilograms or 15 stones
    • the 'hooker' is most likely to play the role of dummy-half
  • second row forwards, of which there are two
  • the lock or loose forward is the only forward in the 3rd and last row of the scrum.

For further information on a player role in the scrum see rugby league positions.



The premier international competition is the Rugby League World Cup, first held in 1954. The format has changed over the years, but it is currently held every 5 years. Australia has dominated the competition, winning for the fourth time in 1975, and has defended it 5 times since then.

At the beginning of each season the reigning champions of the National Rugby League of Australia and the Super League of Great Britain contest the World Club Challenge to determine the best club side in the world. The British club Leeds Rhinos currently hold this title having beaten the Canterbury Bulldogs.

The ARL, partners of the NRL, also conducts the fiercely contested and well-attended State of Origin matches between New South Wales and Queensland which arguably overshadow international matches in terms of public interest within those states.

Other international competitions include the Ashes (a test match series between Great Britain and Australia), the ANZAC tests between Australia and New Zealand and the Tri-Nations to name the largest. There are also many international competitions aimed at developing rugby league in Europe and the Pacific involving what are known as "Developing Nations".

Rugby League World Cup | Tri-Nations | State of Origin | Super League | ANZAC Test | Pacific Cup | Pacific Rim Championship | European Nations Cup | Victory Cup | Mediterranean_Cup


There are two fully professional club level competitions: Super League (Europe) and the National Rugby League of Australia and New Zealand. The Super League is a 12 team competition; currently all teams are from England. In 2006 a French team, Union Treiziste Catalane of Perpignan, will enter, though the number of teams will stay at 12, with two English teams being relegated to the National Leagues at the end of the 2005 season. The National Rugby League consists of 15 teams; it will expand to 16 in 2007 with the introduction of the Gold Coast Titans.

The Challenge Cup is a knock-out competition for all British clubs, amateur and professional, held since 1896. In recent years the entry has been expanded to allow French and Russian teams to take part.

Please refer to individual rugby league playing nations, for information on national, state or local level club competitions.


change over or handover

Change over refers to the attacking team relinquishing possession of the ball and the defending team gaining possession of the ball. This means the previous defending team becomes the current attacking team and visa versa.

chip kick

A chip kick is simply a punt kick that is very short and very low. It is usually performed so that the kicker or another member of the team can quickly recover the ball; thus the ball must not go out of reach of the receiving player.

goal line

The goal line is the line between the 'field of play' and the in goal area, thus there is a goal line for both in goal areas. The goal posts are also situated on the goal line. The goal line represents the goal of the attacking team. A try can be scored by 'touching down' on the goal line.

head and feed

A team is said to have the head and feed of a scrum. The feed refers to the action of placing the ball into the scrum.

in goal area

The in-goal area is a special area where points are scored in the form of a try. There are two in-goal areas on the field, one for each team. A defensive team must defend the in-goal area behind them from the attacking team. The attacking team must defeat the oppositions defences to score a try in their in-goal area.

place kick

The place kick is a kick from a tee. This act of kicking the ball from the tee is similar to hitting a goal ball from the tee. The tees in both sports provide the same support, to lift the ball off the ground. In rugby league higher tees are used to kick the ball higher.

rushing up

Rushing up is the act of a defender coming out of the defensive line in a hurry in anticipation of a pass. The aim is either to intercept the pass or tackle the player upon receiving the ball from a pass. It is somewhat risky to leave the defensive line but is very effective in stopping the attacking play.

See also

Rugby League Playing Nations

American Samoa | Australia | Cook Islands | Fiji | New Caledonia | New Zealand | Niue | Papua New Guinea | Samoa | Tokelau | Tonga

Japan | Singapore

Home Nations
England | Ireland | Wales | Scotland

Continental Europe
Estonia | France | Germany | Georgia | Greece | Italy | Netherlands | Malta | Moldova | Russia | Serbia

Middle East and Africa
Kenya | Lebanon | Morocco | South Africa

Argentina | Canada | United States | West Indies

Sport | Governing Bodies | Sportsmen

Bandy | Baseball | Basketball | Bocce | Cricket | Curling | Floorball
Handball | Hurling | Kabaddi | Korfball | Lacrosse | Netball
Pétanque | Polo - Cycle polo | Softball | Volleyball | Water polo

Football codes: Association (soccer) | American | Australian
Canadian | Gaelic | International | Rugby - League - Union

Hockey codes: Field | Ice | Indoor | Roller | Rink | Street

External links

Personal tools