- Rugby league
An attacking player attempts to evade two defenders
Highest governing body Rugby League International Federation Nickname(s) League, Rugby, 'The Greatest Game of All' First played
7 September 1895, post schism
Characteristics Contact Full contact Team members 13 Mixed gender Single Categorization Outdoor team sport Equipment Football Venue Rugby league playing field
Rugby league football, usually called rugby league, is a full contact sport played by two teams of thirteen players on a rectangular grass field. One of the two codes of rugby football, it originated as a split from the Rugby Football Union in England in 1895 over the issue of payments to players. Its rules were then gradually changed in order to produce a more entertaining game that would appeal to spectators.
Frequently cited as the toughest, most physically demanding of team sports, the objective in rugby league is to carry or kick the ball towards the opposing team's goal line where points are scored by grounding the ball; this is called a try. After scoring a try, the team is allowed the chance to try at goal with a conversion – a kick for further points. The opposing team will attempt to stop the attacking side gaining points by preventing their progress up the field by tackling the player carrying the ball.
The game holds a significant place in the culture and heritage of the areas where it is played. The European Super League and the Australasian National Rugby League are the premier professional club competitions. Rugby league is played internationally, predominantly by European, Australasian and Pacific countries, and is governed by the Rugby League International Federation. The current World Cup holders are New Zealand.
Rugby league football takes its name from the bodies that split to create a new form of rugby football, distinct from that run by the Rugby Football Unions, in England, Australia and New Zealand between 1895 and 1908.
The first of these, initially called the 'Northern Rugby Football Union', was established in 1895 as a breakaway faction of England's Rugby Football Union . Both organisations played the game under the same rules at first, although the Northern Union began to modify rules almost immediately, thus creating a new faster paced form of rugby football. Similar breakaway factions split from RFU-affiliated unions in Australia and New Zealand in 1907 and 1908, renaming themselves "rugby football leagues" and introducing Northern Union rules. In 1922, the Northern Union also changed its name to the Rugby Football League and thus over time the sport itself became known as "rugby league" football.
In 1895, a schism in Rugby football resulted in the formation of the Northern Rugby Football Union (NRFU). Although many factors played a part in the split, including the success of working class northern teams, the main division was caused by the RFU decision to enforce the amateur principle of the sport, preventing "broken time payments" to players who had taken time off work to play rugby. Northern teams typically had more working class players (coal miners, mill workers etc.) who could not afford to play without this compensation, in contrast to affluent southern teams who had other sources of income to sustain the amateur principle. There were similar movements in other countries. In 1895 a decree by the RFU banning the playing of rugby at grounds where entrance fees were charged led to the famous meeting on 29 August 1895. Twenty-two clubs (plus Stockport who negotiated by telephone) met at the George Hotel, Huddersfield in the West Riding of Yorkshire and formed the "Northern Rugby Football Union". Within fifteen years of that first meeting in Huddersfield, more than 200 RFU clubs had left to join the rugby revolution.
A similar schism occurred in Sydney, Australia. There on 8 August 1907 the New South Wales Rugby Football League was founded at Bateman's Hotel in George Street. Rugby league then went on to displace rugby union as the primary football code in New South Wales and Queensland.
On 5 May 1954 over 100,000 (official figure 102,569) spectators watched the 1953–54 Challenge Cup final at Odsal Stadium, Bradford, England, setting a new record for attendance at a rugby football match of either code. Also in 1954 the Rugby League World Cup, the first for either code of rugby, was formed at the instigation of the French.
In 1966, the International Board introduced a rule that a team in possession was allowed three play-the-balls and on the fourth tackle a scrum was to be formed. This was increased to six tackles in 1972 and in 1983 the scrum was replaced by a handover.
1967 saw the first professional Sunday matches of rugby league played.
The first sponsors entered the game, Joshua Tetley and John Player, for Britain's 1971–72 Northern Rugby Football League season.
Television would have an enormous impact on the sport of rugby league in the 1990s when Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation sought worldwide broadcasting rights and refused to take no for an answer. The media giant's "Super League" movement saw big changes for the traditional administrators of the game. In Europe it resulted in a move from a winter sport to a summer one as the new Super League competition tried to expand its market. In Australasia, the Super League war resulted: long and costly legal battles and changing loyalties, causing significant damage to the code in an extremely competitive sporting market. In 1997 two competitions were run alongside each other in Australia, after which a peace deal in the form of the National Rugby League was formed. The NRL has since become recognised as the sport's flagship competition and since that time has set record TV ratings and crowd figures.
The objective in rugby league is to score more points through tries, goals and field goals (also known as drop goals) than the opposition within the 80 minutes of play. If after two halves of play, each consisting of forty minutes, the two teams are drawing, a draw may be declared, or the game may enter extra time under the golden point rule, depending on the relevant competition's format.
The try is the most common form of scoring, and a team will usually attempt to score one by running and kicking the ball further upfield, or passing from player-to-player in order to manoeuvre around the opposition's defence. A try involves touching the ball to the ground on or beyond the defending team's goal-line and is worth four points. A goal is worth two points and may be gained from a conversion or a penalty. A field goal, or drop goal, is only worth one point and is gained by dropping and then kicking the ball on the half volley between the uprights in open play.
Field position is crucial in rugby league, achieved by running with or kicking the ball. Passing in rugby league may only be in a backward or sideways direction. Teammates therefore have to remain on-side by not moving ahead of the player with the ball. However the ball may be kicked ahead for teammates, but again, if they are in front of the kicker they are deemed off-side. Tackling is a key component of rugby league play. Only the player holding the football may be tackled. A tackle is completed when that player's progress is halted, or he is put to ground. An attacking team gets a maximum of six tackles to progress up the field before possession is changed over. Ball control is also important in rugby league, as a fumble of the ball on the ground forces a handover, unless the ball is fumbled backwards.The ball can also be turned over by going over the sideline.
Players on the field are divided into forwards and backs, although the game's rules apply to all players the same way. Each position has a designated number to identify himself from other players. These numbers help to identify which position a person is playing. The system of numbering players is different depending on which country the match is played in. In Australia and New Zealand, each player is usually given a number corresponding to their playing position on the field. However, since 1996 European teams have been able to grant players specific squad numbers, which they keep in irrelevance to the position they play, similarly to association football.
Interchanges (generally referred to as "The Bench") are allowed in the sport, and are typically used when a player gets tired or injured, although they can also be used tactically. Each team is currently allowed four substitutes, and in Australia and New Zealand, these players occupy shirt numbers 14 to 22. There are no limitations on what players must occupy these interchangeable slots, and interchanged players may re-enter the field of play again following a second interchange. Generally, twelve interchanges are allowed in any game from each team, although in the National Rugby League, this was reduced to ten prior to the 2008 season. If a team has to interchange a player due to the Blood Bin rule or due to injury, and this was the result of misconduct from the opposing team, the compromised team does not have to use one of its allocated interchanges to take the player in question off the field.
The backs are generally smaller, faster and more agile than the forwards. They are often the most creative and evasive players on the field, relying on running, kicking and handling skills, as well as tactics and set plays, to break the defensive line, instead of brute force. Generally forwards do the majority of the work (hit-ups/tackling).
- The title of fullback (numbered 1) comes from the fullback's defensive position where the player drops out of the defensive line to cover the rear from kicks and runners breaking the line. They therefore usually are good ball catchers and clinical tacklers. In attack the fullback will typically make runs into the attack or support a runner in anticipation of a pass out of the tackle. Fullbacks can play a role in attack similar to a halfback or five-eighth and the fact that the fullback does not have to defend in the first defensive line means that a coach can keep a playmaker from the tackling responsibilities of the first line whilst allowing them to retain their attacking role.
- The wingers or "wing three quarters" (numbered 2 and 5) are normally the fastest players in a team and play on the far left and right fringes of the field (the wings). Their main task is to receive passes and score tries. The wingers also drop back on the last tackle to cover the left and right sides of the field for kicks while the fullback covers the middle.
- The centres or "centre three-quarters" (numbered 3 and 4) are positioned one in from the wings and together complete what is known as the three-quarter line. Usually the best mixture of power and vision, their main role is to try to create attacking opportunities for their team and defend against those of the opposition. Along with the wingers, the centres score plenty of tries throughout a season. They usually have a large build and therefore can often play in the second row forwards.
Usually, the stand-off half and scrum half are a team's creative unit or 'playmakers'. During the interactions between a team's 'key' players (stand-off half, scrum half, full-back, loose forward, and hooker), the stand-off half and scrum half will usually be involved in most passing moves.
- The stand-off half or 'pivot' or 'five-eighth' (numbered 6): There is not much difference between the stand-off half and the scrum half, in that both players may operate in front of the pack during 'forward play' (as prime receiver  and shadow receiver , one on each side of the ruck, or both on same side of the ruck), and both players may operate in front of the backs during 'back play' (as prime pivot  and shadow pivot , one on each side of the ruck / pack, or both on same side of the ruck / pack). The stand-off half position is named with regard to the role / location of the player in respect to the scrum.
- The scrum half or 'half-back' (numbered 7): There is not much difference between the scrum half and the stand-off half, in that both players may operate in front of the pack during 'forward play' (as prime receiver  and shadow receiver , one on each side of the ruck, or both on same side of the ruck). Both players may operate in front of the backs during 'back play' (as prime pivot  and shadow pivot , one on each side of the ruck / pack, or both on same side of the ruck / pack). The scrum half position is named with regard to the role / location of the player in respect to the scrum.
The forwards' two responsibilities can be broken into "normal play" and "scrum play". For information on a forward's role in the scrum see rugby league scrummage. Forward positions are traditionally named after the player's position in the scrum yet are equal with respect to "normal play" with the exception of the hooker. Forward positions are traditionally assigned as follows:
- The props or front-row forwards (numbered 8 and 10) are normally the largest players on field (male props typically weigh over 100 kg in the open age/senior game). They are positioned in the centre of the line. The prop will be an "enforcer", dissuading the opposition from attacking the centre of the defensive line and, in attack, will give the team momentum by taking the ball up to the defence aggressively.
- The hooker (numbered 9) is most likely to play the role of dummy-half. In defence the hooker usually defends in the middle of the line against the opposition's props and second-rowers. The hooker will be responsible for organising the defence in the middle of the field. In attack as dummy-half this player is responsible for starting the play from every play-the-ball by either passing the ball to the right player, or, at opportune moments, running from dummy-half. It is vital that the hooker can pass very well. Traditionally, hookers "hooked" the ball in the scrum. Hookers also make probably more tackles than any other player on the field. The hooker is always involved in the play and needs to be very fit. They need to have a very good knowledge of the game and the players around them.
- The second row forwards (numbered 11 and 12) The modern day second row is very similar to a centre and is expected to be faster, more mobile and have more skills than the prop and will play amongst the three-quarters, providing strength in attack and defence when the ball is passed out to the wings. Good second-rowers combine the skills and responsibilities of props and centres in the course of the game.
- The loose forward or lock (numbered 13) is the only forward in the third (last) row of the scrum. They are usually among the fittest players on the field, covering the entire field on both attacking and defending duties. Typically they are big ball-runners who can occasionally slot in as a passing link or kick option; it is not uncommon for loose forwards/locks to have the skills of a Stand-off/five-eighth and to play a similar role in the team.
Rugby league worldwide
Rugby league is played in over 40 nations throughout the world. The strongest rugby league nations are Australia, England and New Zealand. These three countries have contested the Rugby League Four Nations tournament against France, Wales and Papua New Guinea, where rugby league is the national sport.
There are currently 30 nations that account for the top ranked teams under the Rugby League International Federation, 12 of which are classified as full international members of the federation.
Professional rugby league teams exist in Australia, New Zealand, England, France, and Wales, while semi-professional and amateur rugby league competitions exist in Italy, the United States, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, Ireland, Jamaica, and Canada.
In Australia, rugby league is the dominant winter sport in the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and New South Wales, which combined include more than half the population of Australia.
In England, rugby league has traditionally been associated with the northern counties of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria where the game originated, although its popularity has also increased elsewhere. Figures published by the Rugby Football League showed an 81% increase in women playing the sport in the twelve months prior to October 2008, as well as an increase in juniors of both genders nationwide. Currently, three of the thirteen Super League teams in the northern hemisphere originate from outside of the sport's traditional counties: Harlequins, Crusaders and Catalans Dragons. Over 40,000 players were registered by the RFL as of October 2008 with an overall participation rate in the game doubling in the last four years to well over 285,000 by late 2009.
France first played rugby league as late as 1934, where in the five years prior to World War II, the sport's popularity increased as Frenchmen became disenchanted with the state of French rugby union in the 1930s. However, after the Allied Forces were defeated by Germany in June 1940, the Vichy regime in the south seized assets belonging to rugby league authorities and clubs and banned the sport for its association with the left-wing Popular Front government that had governed France before the War. The sport was unbanned after the Liberation of Paris in August 1944 and the collapse of the Vichy regime, although it was still actively marginalised by the French authorities until the 1990s. Despite this, the national side appeared in the finals of the 1954 and 1968 World Cups, and the country hosted the 1954 event. In 1996, a French team, Paris Saint-Germain was one of eleven teams which formed the new European Super League, although the club was dissolved in 1997 due to its failure to run at a profit and poor attendances. In 2006, the Super League admitted the Catalans Dragons, a team from Perpignan in the southern Languedoc-Roussillon region. They have subsequently reached the 2007 Challenge Cup Final and made the play-offs of the 2008 Super League XIII season. The success of the 'Dragons' in Super League has initiated a renaissance in French rugby league, with new-found enthusiasm for the sport in the south of the country where most of the Elite One Championship teams are based.
Rugby league is a growing sport in the United States, with the semi-professional American National Rugby League (AMNRL) competition established in 1997. A new competition, the USA Rugby League, also played at an organised semi-professional level, began play in 2011. A Jamaican club, Hurricanes Rugby League has announced their intention to field a professional team for play in one of the American competitions by 2013.
The early 21st century has seen other countries take up the game and compete in international rugby league with efforts being made by the Rugby League European Federation to expand the game to new areas such as Germany, Serbia, Norway and Hungary to name a few.
The two most prominent fully professional leagues are the Australasian National Rugby League and the European Super League. Domestic leagues exist below the NRL and Super League, especially on a state or county level, and semi-professional and amateur leagues exist in many other countries, most notably the Queensland Cup and the NSW Cup, which feed players into NRL teams, and the Co-operative Championship, which a semi-professional competition that (as of the upcoming 2012 season) involves 10 English teams. The Championship 1 is the third tier of British rugby league, and (as of 2012) has eight teams from England plus two from Wales. The Elite One Championship is a semi-professional rugby league competition in France with teams mostly situated in the south.
The game is played semi-professionally in Papua New Guinea, where it is the official national sport. The Bemobile Cup has provided many players to the Papuan national team, such as Menzie Yere and Charlie Wabo, who have gone on to play professionally in England. The government is also lobbying for an NRL expansion franchise. Also in the Pacific are the Fiji National Rugby League Competition, the Tonga National Rugby League, the Samoa Rugby League, the Honiara Rugby League in the Solomon Islands, the Japanese Rugby League Association, and New Zealand's National Zonal competition.
Other domestic competitions based in Europe and the Middle East are the Lebanon Rugby League Championship, Rugby League Ireland, Welsh Premier Division, Scottish Conference, Rugby League Deutschland, Hellenic Rugby League, Italian Rugby League Championship, Maltese Rugby League, Russian Championship and the Serbian Rugby League. Other leagues include South Africa's Tom van Vollenhoven Cup, Canada Rugby League and Jamaica Rugby League.
Both Australia and Europe have their own domestic cup tournaments. The Rugby Football League's Challenge Cup is contested by amateur and professional teams. In Australia, the Rugby League State of Origin series is a domestic tournament, played between New South Wales and Queensland teams. New South Wales also has a one-match City vs Country Origin annually. In New Zealand clubs teams challenge for the Rugby League Cup.
Domestic Champions Tournament Year Current Holder National Rugby League 2011 Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles Super League 2011 Leeds Rhinos Challenge Cup 2011 Wigan Warriors World Club Challenge 2011 St George Illawarra Dragons World Sevens 2004 Wests Tigers Le Championnat de France Elite 2011 Lezignan Sangliers Lord Derby Cup 2011 Lezignan Sangliers National Zonal Competition 2010 Auckland Premier Welsh Conference 2010 Neath Port Talbot Steelers American National Rugby League 2011 New York Knights USA Rugby League 2011 Philadelphia Fight Bemobile Cup 2010 Goroka Lahanis All Ireland 2011 Treaty City Titans Leinster League 2011 Carlow Scotland Conference 2010 Carluke Tigers Lebanon Championship 2010 LAU Immortals Fiji NRL 2010 Sabeto Roosters Tonga National Rugby League 2010 Lapaha Knights Samoan Championship 2010 Marist Saints Tom van Vollenhoven Cup 2010 Wildcats Catalan Championship 2010 Barcelona U.C. Catalan University Championship 2010 University Girona Italian Championship 2010 XIII del Ducato Jamaica Championship 2010 Vauxhall Vultures Jamaica University 2010 GC Foster College Czech Republic League 2010 Beroun Rugby League Deutschland 2010 Rheinland Netherland Grand Prix 2010 Capelle Serbian Championship 2010 RK Dorćol Serbian Cup 2010 RK Dorćol Ukraine Championship 2009 Legion XIII Norway Championship 2010 Oslo RK Cook Islands League 2010 Avatiu Eels National Youth Competition 2010 New Zealand Warriors Queensland Cup 2010 Northern Pride NSW Cup 2010 Bankstown City Co-operative Championship 2010 Featherstone Rovers Championship One 2010 Swinton Lions Northern Rail Cup 2010 Leigh Centurions International Champions Tournament Year Current Holder Rugby League World Cup 2008 New Zealand Four Nations 2010 New Zealand European Cup 2010 Wales Pacific Cup 2009 Papua New Guinea Atlantic Cup 2010 United States ANZAC Cup 2011 Australia The Ashes 2003 Australia Baskerville Shield 2007 Great Britain European Shield – Western 2010 Serbia European Shield – Eastern 2010 Russia Federation Shield 2006 England European Bowl 2011 Czech Republic Euro Med Challenge 2009 Morocco Slavic Cup 2010 Serbia Representative Champions Tournament Year Current Holder All Stars Match 2011 NRL All Stars State of Origin 2011 Queensland City vs Country 2011 Country Origin War of the Roses 2003 Yorkshire PNG Origin 2010 PNG Internationals Ireland Provincial 2010 Munster International Origin 2011 Exiles Fiji Origin 2010 Western Lebanon Origin 2010 Liban Espoir Bundesland of Origin 2009 Bavaria Serbian Origin 2010 Belgrade City Czech Republic Origin 2010 Moravia
- Rugby football
- History of rugby league
- List of rugby league terms
- Playing rugby league
- List of international rugby league teams
- Rugby league nines
- Tag Rugby (OzTag) — a completely non-contact version of rugby league
- Touch football — an almost non-contact version
- League tag — A semi-contact version of Rugby League
- Comparison of rugby league and rugby union
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- Official website of the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF)
- Love Rugby League – The first place for rugby league news and views
- The Rugby League Sin Bin | Rugby League News Blog Opinion and Forum
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