Rugby Union and League Comparison

To understand the difference between Rugby League and Rugby Union, it is worth looking into their origins. In 1870 a governing body called the Rugby Football Union was established. It came up with the first official rules for the game and brought together several clubs.

After disputes regarding rules, there was a schism between clubs, resulting in the formation of the Northern Rugby Football Union. This body decided on a new set of rules for the game. It would eventually be called Rugby League.


Rugby League is played with 13 players on each side, whereas Rugby Union has 15. Union teams are only permitted to have seven substitutions, and league ones are allowed a maximum of 10.


Both game types have the same scoring methods; drop goals, tries and penalties. However, the number of points is different. Union tries and conversions are worth five and two points respectively. League conversions are also worth two, but a try only scores four points. A drop or penalty goal will earn players three points in Rugby Union. In league games, a drop goal is worth one, and a penalty is worth two.


League players can have the ball in between their legs when they get tackled. They can then roll the ball to their feet to get it to a teammate. This is known as a “chicken scratch”. Teams can perform this move a maximum of six times per possession. After this, they have to pass the ball to the opposing team.

In Rugby Union, when players are tackled, they must release the ball. Any onside player on their feet can then take possession of it. When the ball is out of play, a scrum can take place in both game types. Six players take up a league scrum, and eight are allowed in a union one.