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The Difference between Rugby Union & Rugby League – EXPLAINED!

The differences between Rugby Union and Rugby
League (and a whole lot more) But first: a history lesson.
Back in 1823, at a local football match in the town of Rugby, an English school-boy named
William Webb-Ellis supposedly picked up the ball and ran with it.
Pretty soon, this became a popular game and in 1871 lead to the creation of the governing
body known as the RFU, the Rugby Football Union of which still exists today. That’s nice and all, but why are there two
different kinds? Back then, there were two kinds of players.
Firstly, there were the Amateurs. These were public schoolboys or people rich
enough to play the game for free, and who didn’t need to be paid.
Secondly, there were the professionals. These people who were so poor that they needed
to be paid to play a child’s game because they couldn’t afford the time off work.
Nowadays, being a professional sportsman is quite a good job, but back then it was seen
as worse than prostitution. Professionals were usually from the north
of England, particularly Lancashire and Yorkshire. Pretty soon though, they realised that being
paid money to play a game wasn’t such a bad idea and started formed fully professional
teams. The RFU not happy that these Northern Professionals
were beating the Southern Amateurs at their own game and being paid quite well for it,
decided to ban professionals, professional teams and anyone playing professionals or
professional teams. The Professionals not liking this, set up
their own league in 1895 and called themselves the Northern Rugby Football Union, later to
be renamed ‘Rugby League’ whilst the RFU named their sport ‘Rugby
Union’. These two sports have been separate ever since
1895 and to this day you’ll find most of the
professional rugby league teams in the North of England and most of the professional Rugby
union teams are located in the south. Okay, so what IS the difference?
In general, both kinds of rugby have the same idea: you have to run with the ball and touch
it down onto your opponent’s in-goal area to score.
You can pass the ball sideways or backwards, but not forwards.
The opponents have to stop you by grabbing the ball carrier and pulling him to the floor. The main difference between the two sports
is what happens after the tackle. In Rugby Union, the tackle is ‘contested’.
This means that as soon as a tackle has been made, the ball carrier MUST let go of the
ball. This also means in theory, either team can
pick it up and run with it. This is known as the ruck.
It looks like a giant mess of bodies pushing each other and lying on the floor a lot. And
it is: sort of. They’re trying to get the ball. In Rugby League however, the tackle is uncontested.
After the ball carrier is tackled – the opponent must let go of him and his team must
retreat 10 metres. The ball carrier then kicks the ball back
to a teammate and they try and run forward with the ball again.
The team is allowed up to 6 tackles to score before the referee gives the ball to the other
team so that they can have their six tackles. This might seem like a minor rule change,
but this has resulted in two almost completely different sports.
Other differences include: 15 men are in a Union team, as opposed to
13 men in Rugby League. 5 points for a try in Union, 4 points for
a try in League. 3 points for a penalty kick in Union, 2 points
in League. 3 points for a drop goal in Union, but it’s
only worth 1 point in League. In Rugby Union, the key emphasis is on tactics,
retaining possession and kicking for better field position
in Rugby League it’s all about being able to hit your way through a brick wall full
of men, moving the ball quickly and scoring within the six tackles.
There are many other rules that differ between the two codes of rugby, but those are the
main ones you need to know about. American Football fans who watch Rugby League
for the first time generally understand it very quickly, as these two sports are very
similar. That same cannot be said about Rugby Union, which will forever confuse our American
friends for years to come. So why did Rugby League change the rules?
If you remember the professionals of 1895, they needed to be paid.
To make more money from spectators, they had to change the rules of the game to make it
more exciting for spectators to watch. This includes reducing the scoring, reducing
the number of men, and include an even amount of possession by limiting the tackles per
team. This is why some people say that Rugby League
is more exciting to watch. Unionists would argue that they dumbed down
the rules because their tiny little Northern monkey brains couldn’t understand Rugby
Union, but this is certainly not the reason. Unionists usually refer to Rugby League players
as ‘idiots’, whereas League fans think of Union players as ‘fat public schoolboys
who can’t take a hit’. So what’s more popular?
Rugby Union is the more popular sport as it has been around for longer.
It’s also the defacto code of rugby that you’ll probably learn in school.
Only a handful of countries play Rugby League. In fact, the only country where Rugby League
is more popular than Rugby Union is … (of all places) … Australia!
But in reality, when most people say ‘Rugby’, they’re usually referring to Rugby Union. So which is better?
To answer that question: let’s use the analogy of chess and checkers.
Checkers, like Rugby League is a very simple game to understand.
Every piece is the same, and they all have an equal role.
It’s a fast game and you really don’t need to be a genius to understand what’s
going on. Chess (like Rugby Union) is an infinitely
more complicated game to understand. Some pieces are different than others and
perform different roles. It’s a much slower game and it’s all about
strategy and tactics. You have to be more tactically aware to play
Rugby Union. But you have to be fitter to play Rugby League,
as your job mainly consists of running with the ball and being smashed in the face for
80 minutes. So the question is, which do you prefer? Chess
or Checkers? Rugby League or Rugby Union. The only way you’ll truly know is to watch
or play both kinds of games and deciding for yourself. Ninh Ly,, @NinhLyUK

David Frank



  1. Ninh Ly Posted on October 26, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    This video explains the differences between Rugby League and Rugby Union.
    For those of you who have been asking – I like both kinds of Rugby, but I prefer Rugby League.
    I am entitled to my opinion and I don't criticize anyone who thinks differently to me.
    Please be civil when commenting on this video!
    Please comment, rate, share, subscribe and post on Reddit to discuss.

  2. StylistecS Posted on February 20, 2019 at 9:11 pm

    Rugby league does look like American football in a sense. Still some differences but it would be easier to understand for Americans.

    But Rugby Union would be more appreciated by American football fans here in American because it looks complex which is something that American Football very much is.

    Both look like fun. I respect all sports and sportsmen.

  3. big boy Posted on February 20, 2019 at 9:23 pm

    I like both but union fans seem to have some sort of superiority complex, convinced their sport is the only good sport in the world

  4. TheFrozenBahamas - Hurricane Wisdom Posted on February 21, 2019 at 1:12 am

    I've watched both.
    League is just too slow for me, it's fun to watch, but just to slow.
    Come on, why they gotta stop the ball Everytime someone is tackled? I love how in Union you FIGHT for the ball and the play keeps going. Union really isn't hard to understand, but then again this is coming from a daily chess player.

    Can we all at least agree both are better than gridiron football?

  5. Ben Keogh Doyle Posted on February 21, 2019 at 9:21 pm

    Union is better

  6. Zacattack Posted on February 22, 2019 at 7:03 pm

    I am 53 years old, fell out of love with football because of Man U under that cheating bubble whiskey nosed twat Ferguson . The game became dishonest , the 'sport' became money , and money became the sport . Bear with me please …

    Only today did I stumble upon this fine video. I was always a numbnuts when it came to Rugby. The explanation here is fantastic , concise and clear . I think I will start watching some Rugby for the first time . Thankyou Ninh Ly. superb production

  7. London Fire brigade roblox Posted on February 22, 2019 at 9:53 pm

    I know because Warrington is amazing

  8. Layth Posted on February 24, 2019 at 12:56 am

    Rugby is a pretty cool sport. I'm watching the highlights for the six nations tournament. Hopefully USA can become a big contender in the future

  9. Blendinn Posted on February 24, 2019 at 9:12 am

    Nah I don't think they mean union when they mention rugby but that's probably cos I'm from the north (I support saints)

  10. Alex Sorenson Posted on February 25, 2019 at 6:28 am

    So that's the reason why there is rugby league and rugby union. Since they all get paid can't they just merge and make it simple for people who show an interest in the game. Kinda dumb now don't you think

  11. Joshua Bullion 142 Posted on February 26, 2019 at 4:44 pm

    Ninh, did you know that up until the 1990s a try in rugby union was worth 4 points? It was increased to 5 so the players will be encouraged to score more tries because they're now worth more points.

  12. ellibod1 Posted on February 26, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    Union is miles better, it’s more challenging, requires more endurance and stamina, and it’s more interesting to watch

  13. John Vane Posted on February 27, 2019 at 1:40 am

    Played both up to u/19 rep level. Kept playing Union at senior level after I wrecked my knee and wasn’t confident that I could take a direct hit any more, that probably tells you which of the two games is harder. League is far more fun to play because as a player you get to do everything while in Union you become a specialist. In some Union games I was lucky, even as a number eight, to carry the ball six times and make eight tackles. In League I could carry the ball 18 times and make thirty tackles. Also Union is so stop start with scrums, lineouts, penalties and mauls it’s a joke. Rucks, which used to be contested and pulled in most of both forward packs now involve three players from each team and leave five forwards loitering in the back line. Bring back proper rucking, get referees out of scrums and ban rolling mauls.

  14. Little Sailor Posted on March 3, 2019 at 7:44 pm

    I mean I personally prefer playing Union rather than League even though I'm a Northern but as the guy said it's what you prefer

  15. Muhamad Taufiq Posted on March 6, 2019 at 4:33 am

    Here we call league a kindergarten rugby which kids at kindergarten play to learn some basic before make it to the union in high schools

  16. Myles AJ Kay Posted on March 7, 2019 at 1:21 pm

    I dont care!!! Just enjoy the game people. If u dont want to, its up to ur own personal taste. I love both union n league. It is d differences that makes d game more interesting…
    Not offend anyone, but, it depends on ur own likes n dislikes. Both games r interesting if u understand the rules, strategies and technicalities of it.

  17. the guy Emert93 Posted on March 11, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    3:04 & 4:19 well that's why we have youtubers like you ninh 😉

  18. Andrew Walk Posted on March 13, 2019 at 4:09 am

    California rugby tour thanks for Shari Eubanks for getting that all organized 3 hours plane 9 days car and your spring dues can be made out to USA rugby. College rugby.

  19. Andrew Walk Posted on March 13, 2019 at 4:14 am

    I prefer rugby union.

  20. _Nateon_ Smith Posted on March 17, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    No one give a shit about union in Australia any more

  21. ky13b_2k lol Posted on March 21, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    Rugby union all day

  22. Tiger Lucas Posted on March 22, 2019 at 2:37 pm

    In league you can strip the ball one on one in the tackle.

  23. Tyler Sherwood Posted on March 28, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    I play Rugby for my high school and I just found out that it's Rugby Union. Very informational video. Good job

  24. Afonso Sousa Posted on March 28, 2019 at 8:27 pm

    Union without a dout

  25. tractordude57 Posted on March 28, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    In union there isn’t always a ruck when someone gets tackled because you can either offload the ball when someone is trying to tackle you or pop the ball up to one of your team mates when on the ground just before a ruck starts to catch and keep the momentum going

  26. Tim Matthew Posted on March 29, 2019 at 11:54 am

    Why can’t you like both? I like both. I like your checkers/chess analogy. It’s perfect. In terms of international play I can sit and watch a Union or Sevens match. I love watching Australia’s NRL.

  27. ToXik FoX Posted on April 7, 2019 at 11:48 am

    Union is better

  28. Gho St Posted on April 7, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    How does rugby work is it like soccer? Like other countries play against each other? Then it’s the World Cup? And you could only play for your country. Or can someone explain

  29. Plane salt Posted on April 8, 2019 at 2:03 pm

    I have played league but union is more action packed

  30. Plane salt Posted on April 8, 2019 at 2:04 pm

    And I play union for club

  31. Sarah Jane Posted on April 12, 2019 at 6:41 am

    I actually understand/like Union better, and my favorite sport as an American is American football. Despite the retreat/set part of League and the limited possessions, the strategy of Union makes much more sense to me because of how complicated NFL schemes can get. Specialized players, more contact in groups, game management and strategy… this is MUCH more American football than League. The rules of League might be easier to understand for the uninitiated, but overall the Union game is more like American football.

  32. Travis Fairfull Posted on April 13, 2019 at 8:58 am

    Union is for poofers

  33. HOBBIT cadillac Posted on April 14, 2019 at 3:32 am

    more reason why football is the greatest sport of all time, same rules all around the world

  34. McVities 96 Posted on April 17, 2019 at 8:07 pm

    Rugby union is much better

  35. Gerardo Aguilera Posted on April 17, 2019 at 10:55 pm

    Good video but my thumbs down because you forgot the scrum

  36. Robert O'Donnell Posted on April 19, 2019 at 8:17 pm

    Now I under Stand rugby league

  37. Blaster boy 54 Posted on April 20, 2019 at 7:27 pm

    If u go to central England particularly north west rugby league is very popular with league teams like Wigan,Warrington and many more rugby league is more popular in england then u expects but union is more popular

  38. DogAte MyPlums Posted on April 22, 2019 at 5:38 pm

    League is for those with a short attention span ….

  39. coolriki121 cool Posted on April 29, 2019 at 11:17 am

    I live in aus and thers NRL can you do a video about it please

  40. Michael Howe Posted on May 1, 2019 at 10:41 pm

    Union is the better sport. Always has been and always will be. I’ve played both and union is the better option.

  41. Brandon Hea Posted on May 5, 2019 at 6:35 am

    I am American but I am not confused about Rugby Union I love it

  42. the guy Emert93 Posted on May 6, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    I'm surprised that no one has ever thought to create a version of rugby that combines both Sports in a hybrid format you know what I'm saying

  43. Ronin Posted on May 6, 2019 at 5:34 pm

    I like the idea of the ball being up for grabs at any time. League too much like gridiron.

  44. Jake Tierney Posted on May 7, 2019 at 7:59 pm

    I'd rather watch a game of league anyday over boring Yawnion.

  45. KenDaKingArrives Posted on May 8, 2019 at 5:01 am

    I'm glad my country was smart enough to start a Rugby Union competition rather than League, back in 2018. I feared they would opt for League because it's more similar to American football, but cooler heads prevailed. Since Union rules are the rules the national teams play by, it only makes sense for our club competition to use the same rules.

  46. H A N K S C O R P I O Posted on May 9, 2019 at 9:56 am


  47. Vukac Posted on May 9, 2019 at 12:51 pm

    Rugby Union is better!🏉

  48. Peter Strianus Posted on May 10, 2019 at 3:13 pm

    I prefer checkers and actually I prefer rugby league

  49. WO J Posted on May 11, 2019 at 5:04 am

    Not a bad attempt
    Some factual errors.

    * League started out because there was no compensation for players that got injured. In those early days, it was a very violent sport, fights broke out easily. The southerners were usually rich and could cover time off work, the northerners not so.
    Plus, the gate takings. Players wanted a bigger cut too. If a crowd of people came to watch an early days superstar, that superstar wanted to be rewarded too.

    Union and League was still soccer based in that u moved the ball down the field so you could have a shot at the goals.
    A "try" was scored so a team could get an unimpeded shot at the goals. Later on "Trys" we're scored at 3 points each. Both rugbys increased it to 4 in 1980s to get higher scoring games. Rugby increased it to 5 at the turn of the century.

    *League was contested ball up to 1990s. The dummy half could rack the ball in the "play the ball". But referees giving arbitrary penalties. Scrums were contested too but referees also gave away penalties at nearly every scrum so they became uncontested by gentleman's agreement but they still could be contested if the players tried/wanted to

    * League had unlimited tackles up to 1966. St George Dragons basically had won 11 straight titles in Australia because they had mastered the art of not losing the ball. Once the 4 tackle rule came in,order was restored. Tackle was increased to 5 then now the "traditional" 6 in the early 1970s.

  50. Bosty Bro Posted on May 12, 2019 at 4:35 am

    In New Zealand we call it League not Rugby League well I do at least
    And I play rugby and League but
    In my opinion Rugby is better

  51. pupik pupik Posted on May 12, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    Rugby league is also the national sport of PNG

  52. MT D Posted on May 18, 2019 at 6:50 am

    awesome! Thank you, kind sir!

  53. Lil Geers 27 Posted on May 18, 2019 at 8:26 pm

    Rugby league is better

  54. Can I Log In Posted on May 19, 2019 at 5:06 am

    My school taught Flag Rugby Leauge

  55. Hona Wikeepa Posted on May 24, 2019 at 5:42 am

    I played and enjoyed both games. Growing up in NZ, Union was in my blood,

  56. Adam Burrows Posted on May 27, 2019 at 11:18 am

    League is better

  57. Alexi Beck Posted on May 28, 2019 at 12:47 am

    This video explains the differences between the two perfectly, except I will say that the William Webb Ellis story is most likely not true

  58. Neizion 2 Posted on May 29, 2019 at 6:36 am

    Personally, this is just my opinion, but I think that rugby league is a thousand times better than rugby union mainly because Rugby Union players look like a bunch of worms chucked into a can and also, because I'm from Australia, us Aussies generally tend to like league a lot better

  59. Toni Kemppainen Posted on June 2, 2019 at 9:26 am

    Crazy sports man. And without the gear. Nutsacks at the line!

  60. Khaotic Intent Posted on June 2, 2019 at 8:39 pm

    Ive been watching rugby union, since american colleges play union rules set. league looks like the precursor to american football.

  61. Juara Jerman2014 Posted on June 3, 2019 at 2:06 am

    Rugby League Is British American Football 🏈🏉

  62. Marcus Fegent Posted on June 4, 2019 at 3:48 am

    rugby League is the National sport of Papua New Guinea and way more popular than union there.

  63. Nick Hanlon Posted on June 4, 2019 at 9:26 am

    George Bush 2 played Rugby Union.

  64. Dwayne Baker Posted on June 7, 2019 at 10:30 pm

    I didn't know this. It's like the difference between the CFL and NFL. I'm going to watch more of this game!

  65. Warren552011 Posted on June 15, 2019 at 3:42 am

    Just a note on "Limiting tackles per team". It wasn't always 6 tackles in "League" Up until 1966 Rugby League was unlimited tackles. 1967 saw the 4 tackle rule introduced to Australia, followed shortly after by 6 tackle sets. When I was a kid at school I played in all three formats.

  66. StreamFan 68 Posted on June 17, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    Ive tried so many videos to better understand why teams get 4 points.. and FINALLY… I get it now… Thank you so much..GREAT video.. brand new to sport… love this video..

  67. StreamFan 68 Posted on June 17, 2019 at 2:46 pm

    I much prefer Rugby League…. MUCH.. and the NRL is an awesome source of sporting entertainment for sure…

  68. Rusty Ralston Posted on June 17, 2019 at 10:27 pm

    Honestly, I didn't know there was a difference.

  69. Donald Sims Posted on June 25, 2019 at 1:58 am

    Thank you.

  70. Ethan Kerr Posted on June 26, 2019 at 6:37 am

    League is better

  71. Tosin Agbi Posted on June 29, 2019 at 2:48 am

    I like watching League more but I play union so Haha!

  72. rrtaylornz Posted on June 29, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Great video. Growing up in Canada and playing Union it's still my favourite, and having lived in NZ for over 20 years the set pieces and tactical aspects of the game make it more entertaining for me. However, I acknowledge that League is a truly great game, it's physicality is second to none. Also, 2 less players per team creates a lot more space on the field which makes for more exciting line breaks. We get lots of Aussie NRL games here and those are really something to see if you enjoy a game with speed, skill and brutal displays of power. If someone could get Americans to like League they'd make a billion dollars.

  73. Leonardo DiCaprio Posted on July 4, 2019 at 7:40 pm

    4:37 describes what its been like playing RL for 9 yrs! 🤯

  74. conan boi Posted on July 10, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    Rugby union is better

  75. Jalan Salur Posted on July 11, 2019 at 12:54 am


  76. Jalan Salur Posted on July 11, 2019 at 1:16 am

    A pity you didn't mention French Rugby Union's involvement with the NAZI Vichy regime in France and how they got the government to ban Rugby League during WW2…..bastards

  77. vinnie ng Posted on July 13, 2019 at 3:23 am

    Played union all my life but after watching nrl, it seems to be alot more exciting, unfortunately we dont play league where i come from

  78. Benjamin Alexander Posted on July 13, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    Ninh a question
    Has any sport died out completely in history??
    Like once upon a time it was popular but now those sports are extinct. Any sport of that type.
    Since you are an expert I find it appropriate to ask you this question as I'm unable to get satisfactory answer from internet.

  79. Kevin Posted on July 16, 2019 at 7:31 pm

    Is the ball really contested in union, every time a tackle is made ? The answer is clearly NO. It keeps going until someone makes a mistake, they decide to kick it, or the ref blows a penalty.

  80. Rusty Ralston Posted on July 18, 2019 at 1:31 am

    I prefer Union and I'm an American, but hey I don't mind League. Although I actually can't understand Checkers, for some reason, although chess is simple to understand for me

  81. Raos Caos Posted on July 21, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    Union, but both are cool enough XD

  82. Mariano Armendariz Posted on July 24, 2019 at 12:16 am

    What if there was a mix, you have the contested ball of rugby union and a limit of amount of tackles like league. That would be a perfect mix.

  83. The Chosen One Posted on July 26, 2019 at 10:07 pm

    Rugby League is an absolute joke, and I can't even fathom how people enjoy it. Imagine changing the rules of football where after 6 passes you have to give the ball to the other team. What a ridiculous rule!

  84. Hafiz Jamshidi Posted on July 28, 2019 at 9:06 am

    im a middle school girl in Australia who plays both rugby league and union i like both of them but rugby but league is very quick and thrilling and very simple so i prefer leaugue

  85. Sebastian Suppes Posted on July 31, 2019 at 5:01 pm

    George W Bush actually played rugby union for Yale in college. He definitely understood the game, and he was apparently quite a good number 15

  86. Fahimuzzaman Shawn Posted on August 4, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    Wonderful. Nice job .

  87. The zjfking Posted on August 4, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    Coming from Western Sydney (Australia) league is much more popular commercially but I still have a lot of mates who play union, I suggest watching the NRL if you wanna see how league is played properly

  88. Raymond Engle Posted on August 7, 2019 at 12:17 am

    I like them both

  89. Ayesp Posted on August 8, 2019 at 9:30 pm

    They both seem like incredibly fun sports

  90. Flierfy Posted on August 9, 2019 at 6:55 pm

    This schism doesn't do Rugby any good.

  91. Gerardo Calvo Posted on August 15, 2019 at 11:39 pm

    I prefer rugby union

  92. Elai Bailey Posted on August 18, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    I live in Australia; nobody watches league, union gets all the attention

  93. Antman At The Moment Posted on August 21, 2019 at 1:57 am

    Which one do you personally prefer?

  94. Leo Junior Posted on August 22, 2019 at 3:39 am

    Ninh Ly – You know, I checked other videos of your channel to see if I want to try to learn and watch other sports besides the NFL. But no, I guess the only sports I enjoy watching are just NFL and the two codes of Rugby. Rugby Union and League are now my favorite sports to watch during the Spring and Summer. I'm very excited for the upcoming NFL season.

  95. Vatti Posted on August 24, 2019 at 9:37 am

    Sincerely the rest of the world think that is the same

  96. DragonsRaw148 Posted on August 25, 2019 at 7:27 am

    (AUS )Rugby league is better fat boys

  97. Levels Of Rage Posted on August 28, 2019 at 3:12 am

    You're right. Ruby League seams more appealing to me and I'm an American, haha.

  98. Pa Tero Posted on August 28, 2019 at 8:32 am

    League=Draughts. Union=Chess.

    1 game game requires higher IQ than the other!

  99. Daniel Weicht Posted on August 28, 2019 at 6:51 pm

    I play both games, but I prefer union for the racks, mauls and the lineouts.