Rugby Union And Rugby League – What’s The Difference?

Someone you work with might ask if you watched a rugby game the night before. For those who do not watch this sport, they will be caught off guard. Next to cricket, rugby is the most arcane team sport. Rugby League and Rugby Union have the same name and stem from the same game but have some key differences as well, which will be enumerated below.

Possession is the first and most important difference. According to rugby union, as long as a player holds the ball, it is his, no matter if his team gets tackled every two yards. The ball goes slowly its way to the pitch. Meanwhile there are many series of scrums. In rugby league it is different because the countdown begins when a player gets tackled. His team cannot get tackled more than six times, before giving possession to the other team. A player has to be careful after five tackles to heft the ball up the pitch as far as possible. That is very similar to American Football. In addition, in the league game there are not so many scrums. Scrums are common at the side of the pitch, similar to line-outs in the rugby union. After the tackle, play restarts with a “play-the-ball” move similar to a back-heel in football.

Since there are a lot more changes of possession in the league game and many more opportunities to score, the way in which the match is scored differs as well: a try is worth 4 points instead of 4, a drop goal (this is a kick from open play) is only one point, not 3, and penalties are worth 2 instead of 3. It is obvious that rugby league is a more open, fluid game with a lot more passing and finely honed moves, unlike rugby union which is a more physical game with more strategy, slower moving toward the pitch. Either of them can have loads of exhilaration, the preference really just becomes about individual feelings and, as will soon become apparent, location.

Putting aside the intricacies of the rule-sets for a moment, there are other differences around the sport’s cultures. First of all there’s the game’s heartlands: rugby league in the UK is overwhelmingly a North of England pastime: in Scotland, Wales and Ireland it’s barely played at all, with Wales not even qualifying for the last World Cup. South Africa isn’t a force in the game, either, and France is stronger in the Union code. Indeed, Union is more popular the world over: there are a few exceptions – Papua New Guinea and perhaps even Georgia spring to mind – but League is generally the underdog’s sport and not one that captures the imagination of the rugby-going public. Rugby League fans, then, tend to be fiercely loyal to their code, seeing it not just as a sport but an extension of their local identity. Just visit the game’s heartland in the North to see it in action. Union fans, meanwhile, generally have a happy-go-lucky reputation and a friendly demeanour – although all bets are off when the big rivalries start to shine. South Africa and Australia, despite being separated by thousands of miles of ocean, have some bad blood between them.

Let’s keep the similarities in mind, though. The first similarity is the fan base. No matter the previously mentioned differences, the fans are very likely to be way more friendly than the average football fan. Having a foreign family member accompany you to a match, in either code, will lead to ongoing questions about what exactly is happening. And, maybe even more significant than this, should you encounter an Australian or a New Zealander there’s a good chance that they are better than you at either sport. Some things always stay the same.
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Following the Way (Papua New Guinea documentary by Steve Ramsden)

Following the Way is on IMDB! Please rate it if you enjoyed it:

A documentary made by Papua New Guinean-born filmmaker Steve Ramsden about the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea.

Ever since missionaries Albert Maclaren and Copland King first brought the Gospel to Papua New Guinea in 1891, the Anglican Church has carried out its mission of preaching, teaching and healing. In a country with 700 different languages, inaccessible terrain and all the problems of a developing nation such as HIV, this is a challenge indeed. Today the country is made up of five Anglican dioceses, and each has a wildly diverse story to tell the filmmakers, from the islands to the highlands. Refreshingly the film is not a charity appeal, but instead illustrates how the remarkably resourceful Anglicans all over PNG are setting up their own schemes to become self-sufficient.

Steve Ramsden traveled with local media man Robroy Chicki all over PNG to bring back these stories of the Anglicans who live in this astonishingly beautiful but little-known Pacific country.

Shot in May/June 2010 and produced by the Papua New Guinea Church Partnership UK.
Broadcast nationwide in Papua New Guinea on Kundu2TV in 2010.

Director, Narrator, Cinematographer & Editor: Steve Ramsden
Sound Recordist, Interviewer, Translator & Additional Footage by Robroy Chicki

See the Behind the Scenes video here:

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