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How to bet on rugby: The differences between Rugby Union and Rugby League

How to bet on rugby: The differences between Rugby Union and Rugby League

In order to learn how to bet on rugby, bettors must know the difference between Rugby Union and Rugby League before getting a grasp for which factors will impact the result in rugby betting. This article explains the basic rules of the sports and what to look out for in terms of betting. Continue reading to learn how to bet on rugby.

The birth of rugby is one of the most interesting stories in sporting history. William Webb Ellis, a 16-year-old student at Rugby school, picked up the ball and ran with it while playing soccer back in 1823. Since then, official rules were created, before the sport disbanded into two codes (Rugby Union and Rugby League) and we were left with the modernised versions of the game we have today.

How to bet on rugby - Rugby Union vs. Rugby League

Unlike golf betting, rugby betting consists of two very different sports. Understanding the differences between both formats will help bettors learn how to bet on rugby - a similar logic should be applied if you want to learn how to bet on cricket where test cricket and limited overs cricket are very different when it comes to betting.

Armed with basic knowledge of rugby, bettors can then build on this and bet on both forms of the sport. Below is a basic explanation of the rules of Rugby Union and Rugby League and how the two differ.

Rugby Union

Two teams of 15 players compete in a game that lasts 80 minutes (two 40 minute halves). The aim is to ground the ball in a marked section at the opposite end of the pitch to score a “try” which is worth five points.

After a try the attacking team has the chance to score an additional two points by kicking a “conversion” through the H-shaped posts - this is taken from in-line with where the try was scored but as far back as the kicker wishes to place the ball.

Teams will attack by moving forward whilst passing the ball backwards (the ball can be kicked in any direction). The defending team must try to stop movements forward by tackling the attacking side - if the attacker falls to the floor after being tackled a “ruck” is formed. If the attacker stays on their feet it is referred to as a “maul”.

After an infringement has occurred (offside, tackling above the shoulders, entering a ruck or maul from the side, knocking the ball forwards ) the opposing side can either kick the ball downfield for a “line-out”, put the ball in for a “scrum” or take a kick at goal (the same as a conversion but worth three points); the options available also depend on the severity of the infringement.

Rugby Union terminology

Term  Definition
 Line-out  Throw-in taken from the side of the pitch. This is contested by a minimum of two players (usually seven players) from each team.
 Scrum  The eight forwards from each side bind together and attempt to push each other back. One side will have the “put in” - the advantage of feeding the ball into the scrum.


 A kick from the hands that must hit the floor before being kicked. If it goes through the posts it is worth three points.
 Turnover  When the defending team retrieves possession from the attacking team.

Rugby League

Despite some similarities, there are numerous differences between Rugby Union and Rugby League that anyone who wants to learn how to bet on rugby should be aware of.

Rugby League is often considered more fast-paced than Rugby Union yet the basic principles of the two formats are the same - teams try to outscore the opponent by scoring trys (worth four points in Rugby League), conversions (worth two points in both formats) or drop goals (often referred to as a “field goal” in Rugby League and only worth one point instead of three).

Similarly to Rugby Union, Rugby League consists of two 40-minute halves but only 13 players compete for each team in the latter. The major difference between the two codes is the rules after a tackle - there are no “rucks” or “mauls” in Rugby League and instead, the attacking side simply retain possession by rolling the ball back to a teammate using their foot.

There is no limit to the time in possession in Rugby Union, whilst in Rugby League the attacking side can only be tackled six times before they must turn over possession. Additionally, there are no line-outs in Rugby League - the teams contest a scrum after the ball goes out of play.

Rugby League terminology

Although there are slight nuances, a scrum, turn over and drop goal (field goal) mean the same thing in both formats. However, there are a few terms in Rugby League that don’t exist or are very rarely used in Ruby Union

Term  Definition
 10-metre rule  Once a player is tackled, the defending team (apart from two players must retreat 10 metres from where the tackle was made - this only applies to a penalty in Rugby Union.
 40/20 rule  If a player who is 40 metres away from his own try line kicks the ball and it bounces in play before going out of play in the opponents 20-metre area, his side wins the put in for a scrum.
 Double movement  If a player is tackled and they try to make another movement forward after the tackle - often trying to reach the try line.

Rugby betting - Available markets

Pinnacle offers a wide variety of both Rugby Union and Rugby League betting markets. In addition to several international competitions such as the World Cup and the Six Nations, bettors can also choose from a range of domestic leagues in Europe, Australia and New Zealand as well as continental club competitions like the European Rugby Champions Cup and European Rugby Challenge Cup.

The popularity of Rugby League is less widespread across Europe and is more concentrated in the north of England and France - the Super League and Championship are the main competitions in England with the Elite One Championship and Elite Two Championship being France’s equivalent.

Rugby League is also very popular in Australia with the NRL (National Rugby League) and Super Premiership NSW (New South Wales) being the two most renowned competitions. The Rugby League World Cup, Four Nations and European Championship are the highest-level international competitions in Rugby League.

Pinnacle offers three main markets for rugby betting - these are the three basic bet types that are common amongst most sports; Money Line, Handicap and Totals.

Money Line

The Money Line in rugby betting is a bet on who you think will win the match. This is the same for both Rugby Union and Rugby League and is considered the simplest form of betting.


Once bettors know how to bet on rugby in terms of the Money Line, they will often progress to Handicap betting to try and find more value. The handicap in rugby betting refers to an advantage the bookmaker gives one team to make the game more balanced.

The team with a negative handicap must win by more than the figure set by the bookmaker in order for a bet on them to win. The team with a positive handicap must win, draw or lose by less than the figure set for a bet on them to win.


Totals betting in rugby is when a bettor places a bet on the total number of points to be scored in a match. The bookmaker determines the Totals figure and bettors can either bet on the number of points to be over or under that figure.

Now that you know the difference between Rugby Union and Rugby League, you can begin to expand your knowledge from the basics of how to bet on rugby to be able to find value in rugby betting markets.





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Benjamin Cronin
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