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Rugby league

Rugby league
An attacking player attempts to evade two defenders
Highest governing body Rugby League International Federation
Nicknames Footy, The Greatest Game of All[1][2]
First played 7 September 1895, post schism, England
Registered players 2,360,000
Clubs 18,630
Contact Full contact
Team members Thirteen
Mixed gender Single
Type Team sport, Outdoor
Equipment Rugby ball
Venue Rugby league playing field

Rugby league football,[3] usually called rugby league,[4] or simply league is a full contact sport played by two teams of thirteen players on a rectangular field.[5] One of the two codes of rugby football, it originated in England in 1895 as a split from the Rugby Football Union over the issue of payments to players.[6] Its rules gradually changed with the purpose of producing a faster,[7][8] more entertaining game for spectators.[9] It is frequently cited as the toughest, most physically demanding of team sports.[10]

In rugby league points are scored by carrying or kicking the ball down the field, until it can be moved past the opponents' designated goal line and touched to the ground; this is called a try, and is the primary method of scoring.[5] The opposing team attempts to stop the attacking side gaining points by preventing their progress up the field by tackling the player carrying the ball.[5] In addition to tries, points can be scored by kicking goals. After each try, the scoring team gains a free kick to try at goal with a conversion for further points.[5] Kicks at goal may also be awarded for penalties, and field goals can be attempted at any time during general play.

Rugby league is among the most popular sports in Northern England,[11] Australia,[12] New Zealand,[13] France,[14] Tonga[15] and Papua New Guinea,[16] where it is the national sport.[17][18] The European Super League and Australasian National Rugby League (NRL) are the premier club competitions. Rugby league is played internationally, predominantly by European, Australasian and Pacific countries, and is governed by the Rugby League International Federation. The first Rugby League World Cup was held in France in 1954; the current holders are Australia.


  • Etymology 1
  • History 2
  • Rules 3
  • Positions 4
    • Backs 4.1
    • Forwards 4.2
  • Rugby league worldwide 5
    • Domestic competitions 5.1
    • Current competitions 5.2
      • Domestic 5.2.1
      • International 5.2.2
        • Current
        • Former or not recently played
      • Representative 5.2.3
  • Attendances 6
    • International 6.1
    • Domestic 6.2
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10


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 Britain, Australia and New Zealand between 1895 and 1908.

The first of these, the leagues" and introducing Northern Union rules.[19] In 1922, the Northern Union also changed its name to the Rugby Football League[20] and thus over time the sport itself became known as "rugby league" football.


In 1895, a [22] Within fifteen years of that first meeting in Huddersfield, more than 200 RFU clubs had left to join the rugby revolution.

In 1897, the line-out was abolished[23] and in 1898 professionalism introduced.[24] In 1906, the Northern Union changed its rules, reducing teams from 15 to 13 a side and replacing the ruck formed after every tackle with the play the ball.[25]

A similar schism to that which occurred in

  • Official website of the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF)
  • The Rugby League Spotlight | All round Rugby League News Blog Opinion Website
  • Love Rugby League – The first place for rugby league news and views
  • The largest Rugby League website in the world

External links

  • Andrews, Malcolm (1981). Rugby league, the greatest game of all. Horwitz.  
  • Andrews, Malcolm (1995). The A-Z of Rugby League. Hodder Moa Beckett.  
  • RLIF (2004). "The International Laws of the Game and Notes on the Laws". Rugby League International Federation. Archived from the original on 2010-01-05. Retrieved 30 July 2008. 

Further reading

  1. ^  
  2. ^  
  3. ^  
    • Bellew, T. J. (1984). Laws of the game of rugby league football.  
    • John Nauright & Charles Parish (2010). Sports around the World. USA: ABC-CLIO, LLC. 
    • Paul Downward and Ian Jackson (2004). Common Origins, Common Future? A Comparative Analysis of Association Football and Rugby League Football in the UK. Greenwood Publishing Group.  
    • Rugby Football League (1957). Rugby league football: the official illustrated handbook of the Rugby Football League. Great Britain: Educational Productions Ltd. 
  4. ^ RLEF. "What is Rugby League?". Rugby League European Federation. Retrieved 28 July 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c d Dept. Recreation and Sport. "Dimensions for Rugby League". Government of Western Australia. Archived from the original on 2010-12-31. Retrieved 28 July 2009. 
  6. ^ a b Tony Collins, Rugby League in Twentieth Century Britain (2006), p.3
  7. ^ Scianitti, Matthew (18 June 2011). "The world awaits for Canada's rugby team".  
  8. ^ "Sports". Life in New Zealand.  
  9. ^ Middleton, David (March 2008). League of Legends: 100 Years of Rugby League in Australia. National Museum of Australia. p. 27.  
  10. ^ Bailey, Mark (5 February 2014). "Rugby league: seven fitness tips from the world’s toughest sport". The Telegraph. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
    • Meares, Peter (2003). Legends of Australian sport: The Inside Story. Australia:  
    • Olson, Lisa (1997-09-28). "The down under thunder before Dodgers Rupe shook up Aussie sport".  
    • Heads, Ian (2013). At the George: And Other Essays on Rugby League. UK: Faber & Faber. p. Preface. 
    • Whitley, David (16 November 1999). "The Toughest Sport On Earth".  
    • Mott, Sue (2004-02-28). "Pied piper puts heart and soul into hardest game of all". London UK: The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2010-12-31. Retrieved 13 September 2010. 
    • "Raging Bull: The Gorden Tallis Story". QBD. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
    • "My Life in Rugby League: Joe Vagana – Bradford Bulls". League Express. League Publications Ltd. 2008-04-07. Retrieved 27 May 2009. 
  11. ^ Else, David (2009). England.  
  12. ^ "Rugby league: National Rugby League and Australian Rugby League". Australian Human Rights Commission. Retrieved 11 August 2012. 
  13. ^ "New Zealand Sport". Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  14. ^ Nicola Williams, Oliver Berry, Steve Fallon (2009). France. Lonely Planet. p. 54.  
  15. ^ a b Matt Fletcher, Nancy Keller (2001). Tonga. Australia:  
  16. ^ "Rugby League, a uniting force in PNG". Retrieved 8 August 2012. 
  17. ^ a b "PNG vow to upset World Cup odds". Rugby League (Federación Peruana de Frontón). 15 October 2008. Retrieved 3 July 2009. But it would still be one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history if Papua New Guinea - the only country to have rugby league as its national sport - were to qualify for the last four. 
  18. ^ a b "PNG seal 2010 Four Nations place". BBC. 1 November 2009. 
  19. ^ Why Rugby League? at Crusaders Rugby League website
  20. ^ Spracklen, Karl (2001). 'Black Pearl, Black Diamonds' Exploring racial identities in rugby league. Routledge. p. 72.  
  21. ^  
  22. ^ Groeneveld, Margaret (2007). Matters of the heart: The business of English rugby league. Berghahn Books. p. 27.  
  23. ^ Tony Collins, Rugby League in Twentieth Century Britain (2006), p.6
  24. ^ Tony Collins, Rugby League in Twentieth Century Britain, p.5 (2006)
  25. ^ Tony Collins, Rugby League in Twentieth Century Britain (2006), p.6, quote:"in 1906 the number of players in a team was reduced to thirteen and an orderly play-the-ball, whereby a tackled player had to get to his feet and roll the ball behind him with his foot, was introduced. These two changes completed the break from the playing rules of rugby union and marked the birth of rugby league as a distinct sport with its own unique rules".
  26. ^ a b Baker, Andrew (1995-08-20). "100 years of rugby league: From the great divide to the Super era".  
  27. ^ Jupp, James (2001). The Australian People: An Encyclopedia of the Nation, Its People and Their Origins. Cambridge University Press. pp. 342 & 343.  
  28. ^ Collins, Tony (2006-04-18). Rugby League in Twentieth Century Britain (1 ed.). Routledge. pp. 113–114.  
  29. ^ "Rugby League Attendances 1957–2010". 2010. 
  30. ^ "Season Summary". Rugby League Tables. Retrieved 7 April 2010. 
  31. ^ "Stats Insider: Grand Final by the numbers". (Australia:  
  32. ^ 'history of the sport' in 1996, theRFL 
  33. ^ 'rugby league playing guide' squad numbers, This is rugby 
  34. ^ "League rule changes for 2008". (League Unlimited). Retrieved 18 June 2009. 
  35. ^ RLIF Rankings. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
  36. ^ Most Popular Sports in Australia. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
  37. ^ Ilya, Gridneff (11 April 2008). "Papua New Guinea officials lobby for an NRL team". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 June 2012. 
  38. ^ Knowler, Richard (21 February 2012). "NRL team bid for Christchurch". The Press. Retrieved 21 June 2012. 
  39. ^ David Rowe, 'Rugby League in Australia: the Super League Saga', Journal of Sport & Social Issues, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 221–226 (1997)
  40. ^ Ford, Greg (18 April 2012). "State of Origin bigger test for James Tamou". Fairfax NZ News. Retrieved 16 June 2012. 
  41. ^ "Apathy in old Dart like an arrow through our heart". Stock & Land. 1 November 2008. Retrieved 17 June 2012. 
  42. ^ RLEF. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
  43. ^ [1]
  44. ^ Woods, Dave (2008-12-14). "Interest growing in Conference". BBC Sport. Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  45. ^ "Rugby League Activity". Active Surrey. 2008-12-14. Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  46. ^ "Engage Super League Attracts Strong Viewing in 2008". Rugby Football League. 2008-12-14. Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  47. ^ a b "National Campaign Launched". England Rugby League. 2008-12-14. Retrieved 14 December 2008. 
  48. ^ a b c Schofield, Hugh (2002-10-08). "French rugby league fights for rights". (BBC News). Retrieved 18 July 2009. 
  49. ^ "Rugby League Planet – 1954 Rugby League World Cup". Retrieved 18 July 2009. 
  50. ^ "Rugby League Planet – 1968 Rugby League World Cup". Retrieved 18 July 2009. 
  51. ^ "Step Back in Time: Catalans (H)". ( Retrieved 18 July 2009. 
  52. ^ "French join Super League". (BBC Sport). 2004-05-26. Retrieved 18 July 2009. 
  53. ^ RLEF. (2011-07-29). Retrieved 20 August 2013.
  54. ^ German Rugby League Bundesliga set for kick off. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
  55. ^ Retrieved 20 August 2013.
  56. ^
  57. ^
  58. ^


See also

* The official attendance of the 1954 Challenge Cup Final rePlay was 102,569. Unofficial estimates put the attendance as high as 120,000.

Game Date Result Venue City Crowd
1999 NRL Grand Final 26 September 1999 St George Illawarra 20-18 Stadium Australia Sydney 107,556
1999 NRL season Round 1 6 March 1999 Newcastle def Manly-Warringah 41-18 Stadium Australia Sydney 104,583
1954 Challenge Cup Final replay 5 May 1954 Warrington def. Halifax 8-4 Odsal Stadium Bradford 102,569*
1985 Challenge Cup Final 4 May 1985 Wigan def. Hull 28-24 Wembley Stadium London 99,801
1966 Challenge Cup Final 21 May 1966 St Helens def. Wigan 21-2 Wembley Stadium London 98,536
The top five attendances for domestic based rugby league matches are:


Game Date Result Venue City Crowd
2013 World Cup Final 30 November 2013 Australia def. New Zealand 34-2 Old Trafford Manchester 74,468
1992 World Cup Final 24 October 1992 Australia def. Great Britain 10-6 Wembley Stadium London 73,631
1932 Ashes series, Game 1 6 June 1932 England def. Australia 8-6 Sydney Cricket Ground Sydney 70,204
1962 Ashes series, Game 1 9 June 1962 Great Britain def. Australia 31-12 Sydney Cricket Ground Sydney 70,174
1958 Ashes series, Game 1 14 June 1958 Australia def. Great Britain 25-8 Sydney Cricket Ground Sydney 68,777
The top five attendances for rugby league test matches (International) are:


While rugby league does not enjoy the same international profile as rugby union or soccer, mostly due to the game only being played at the highest level in Australia/New Zealand (NRL) and in UK/France (Super League), the game continues to attract large numbers to both international and domestic competitions.


Tournament Year Current Holder
All Stars Match 2013 Indigenous All Stars
State of Origin 2014 NSW
City vs Country Origin 2014 Country
International Origin 2012 Exiles
War of the Roses 2003 Yorkshire
PNG Origin 2010 PNG Internationals
Ireland Provincial 2011 Munster
Fiji Origin 2010 Western Conference
Lebanon Origin 2010 Liban Espoir
Bundesland of Origin 2009 Bavaria
Serbian Origin 2013 Serbia Country
Czech Republic Origin 2010 Moravia


Tournament Year Current Holder
European Cup 2010  Wales
Pacific Cup 2009  Papua New Guinea
Atlantic Cup 2011  Great Britain
Tri-Nations 2006  Australia
Nordic Cup 2011  Denmark
Baskerville Shield 2007  Great Britain
The Ashes 2003  Australia
Federation Shield 2006  England
Milan Kosanovic Cup 2011  Russia
Euro Med Challenge 2009  Morocco
Slavic Cup 2010  Serbia
Mediterranean Cup 2004  Lebanon
Former or not recently played
Year Tournament Current Holder Next Held Year
2013 Rugby League World Cup  Australia 2017
2013 ANZAC Day Test  Australia 2014
2014 Four Nations  New Zealand 2015
2012-13 European Shield  Russia 2014-15
2013 European Bowl  Ukraine 2014
2013 Asian Cup Philippines 2014
2013 Colonial Cup  United States 2014


Nations Competition Teams Established Latest Year Winner Runner-Up Tier/Division
 AUS/ NZL/ PNG National Rugby League (NRL) 16 1908 2014 South Sydney Rabbitohs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs A-Grade
VB New South Wales Cup 13 2008 2014 Penrith Panthers Newcastle Knights 1st Tier
Intrust Super Cup 12 2008 2012 Wynnum Manly Seagulls Redcliffe Dolphins
NRL Holden Cup U20's (NYC) 16 2007 2013 Penrith Panthers New Zealand Warriors Youth
 CAN British Columbia Rugby League (BCRLC) 6 2012 2013 Surrey Beavers Kelowna Crows 1st Tier
Ontario Rugby League (ORL) 4 2010 2013 Toronto City Saints Toronto Centruions
 COK Cook Island League 4 2010 2010 Avatiu Eels Unknown 1st Tier
 CZE Czech Republic Rugby League First Division 4 2011 2013 Lokomotiva Beroun[57] 'Zemni Stavby Vrchlabi 1st Division
Czech Republic Rugby League Second Division 4 2012 2013 Chrudim Angels[58] 'Slavia Hradec Kralove 2nd Division
 ENG/ FRA European Super League (ESL) 14 1996 2013 Wigan Warriors Warrington Wolves A-Grade
 ENG/ WAL Kingstone Press Championship 10 2003 2012 Sheffield Eagles Featherstone Rovers 1st Tier
Kingstone Press Championship 1 10 2003 2012 Doncaster RLFC Barrow Raiders 2nd Tier
 FIJ Fiji National Rugby League (FNRL) 14 2010 2012 Makoi Bulldogs Sabeto Roosters 1st Tier
 FRA Le Championnat de France Elite Un 10 2002 2012-13 Pia XIII Saint Estève XIII 1st Tier
 GER Rugby League Deutschland 8 2010 2010 Rheinland RLFC Unknown 1st Tier
 IRE Leinster Rugby League Competition 4 2010 2010 Dublin City Exiles Unknown 1st Tier
Munster Rugby League Competition 6 2010 2010 Treaty City Titans Unknown
 ITA Italian iRFleague 4 2010 2010 Gladiators Roma I Magnifici Firenze 1st Tier
 JAM Jamaica Championship 8 2010 2010 Vauxhall Vultures Unknown 1st Tier
 LIB Lebanon Championship 6 2010 2011 LAU Immortals Unknown 1st Tier
 NED Netherlands Grand Prix 4 2008 2012 Nootdorp Panthers Capelle Spartans 1st Tier
 NZL National Zonal Competition 7 1908 2012 Akarana Falcons Counties Manukau Stingrays 1st Tier
 NOR Norway Championship 6 2011 2012 Olso Capitals Unknown 1st Tier
 PNG PNG Digicel Cup 10 1989 2012 Goroka Lahanis Port Moresby Vipers 1st Tier
 SAM Samoan Championship 6 2010 2010 Marist Saints Unknown 1st Tier
 SCO Scotland Conference First Division 10 2004 2012 Edinburgh Eagles Aberdeen Warriors 1st Tier
 SRB Serbian Rugby League Championship 6 2002 2013 Dorćol Red Star Belgrade 1st Tier
6 2011 2013 White Rabbits Radnički Belgrade 2nd Tier
5 2013 2013 Military Academy Vojvoda 3rd Tier
 RSA South Africa Protea Cup 8 2010 2011 Wildcats Hurricanes 1st Tier
South Africa Rhino Cup 5 2010 2012 Bears TUKS RL
 TON TNRL Global Insurance Cup 19 2006 2012 Lapaha Knights Mu'a Saints 1st Tier
 USA American National Rugby League (AMNRL) 8 1998 2013 Connecticut Wildcats New York Knights 1st Tier
USA Rugby League (USARL) 15 2011 2012 Jacksonville Axemen Boston Thirteens
 WAL South Wales Championship 6 2010 2011 Unknown Unknown 1st Tier
North Wales Championship 5 Unknown Unknown 1st Tier


Current competitions

The two most prominent fully professional leagues are the Australasian National Rugby League and the European Super League and to a lesser extent the semi professional French Elite One Championship and Elite Two Championship. Domestic semi professional leagues exist below the NRL and Super League, especially on a state or county level, in Australia the Queensland Cup (which includes a team from Papua New Guinea) and NSW Cup, which provides players to various NRL teams. In the United Kingdom below Super League is the Championship and Championship 1. The Fiji National Rugby League Competition also runs semi professional teams.[56] In other countries the game is played at an amateur level.

Domestic competitions

The early 21st century has seen 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, Sweden, Norway and Hungary.[53][54][55]

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.[48] 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.[48] 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.[48] Despite this, the national side appeared in the finals of the 1954 and 1968 World Cups, and the country hosted the 1954 event.[49][50] 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.[51] In 2006, the Super League admitted the Catalans Dragons, a team from Perpignan in the southern Languedoc-Roussillon region.[52] 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.

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.[44][45][46] Currently, two of the fourteen Super League teams are based outside of these traditional counties: London Broncos and Catalans Dragons. 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.[47] 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.[47]

A game between Leeds Rhinos and Hull F.C. academy sides in England, May 2009

The Rugby League European Federation are responsible for developing rugby league in Europe and the Northern Hemisphere,[42] while the Asia Pacific Rugby League Confederation are responsible for developing rugby league in the Asia-Pacific region.[43] The Rugby League European Cup and Rugby League Pacific Cup are both run by the RLEF and APRLC respectively and are used as a stepping stone to the Rugby League Four Nations with Australia, New Zealand and England, the fourth team being decided by who wins the Pacific and European Cup, and rotates each year from Europe to the Pacific.

[41][40] ranks among the most popular sporting events.State of Origin series. In Australia, and indeed the rest of the region, the annual Cook Islands and the Samoa and is played in other Pacific nations such as [15]Tonga The game is also among the predominant sports of [39] Rugby league is the dominant winter sport in the eastern Australian states of New South Wales, Queensland and Australian Capital Territory,[38] Australia's elite club competition which also features a team from Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city. The popularity of the code in New Zealand has led to the possibility of another team from the South Island entering the competition as well.[37],National Rugby League This has led to officials from that country lobbying to have a team admitted to the [18][17].national sport is the only country to have rugby league as its Papua New Guinea and neighbouring [36]The game is particularly popular in the nations of the South Pacific. Rugby League is the 3rd most attended sport in Australia

Rugby league is played in over 30 nations throughout the world, 27 are ranked by the RLIF and a further 11 are unranked.[35] The strongest rugby league nations are Australia, England and New Zealand. The Rugby League World Cup is the highest form of representative rugby league and currently features 14 teams (ordered by RLIF rank) (1) Australia, (2) New Zealand, (3) England, (4) France, (5) Fiji, (6) Wales,(7) Papua New Guinea,(8) Samoa, (9) Ireland, (10) USA, (11) Scotland, (12) Italy (13) Tonga, and (14) Cook Islands. (20) Lebanon, (15) Russia and (25) South Africa have previously contested in World Cups. The current World Champions are Australia, who won the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

Rugby league worldwide

  • 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
  • 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 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 locks to have the skills of a five-eighth and to play a similar role in the team.

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:

Rugby league is noted for its hard physical play


  • The Five-Eighth or 'pivot' (numbered 6): There is not much difference between the Five-Eighth and the Halfback, in that both players may operate in front of the pack during 'forward play' (as prime receiver [7] and shadow receiver [6], 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 [6] and shadow pivot [7], one on each side of the ruck / pack, or both on same side of the ruck / pack). The Five-Eighth position is named with regard to the distance that the player stands in relevance to the team.
  • The halfback (numbered 7): There is not much difference between the halfback and the five-eighth, in that both players may operate in front of the pack during 'forward play' (as prime receiver [7] and shadow receiver [6], 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 [6] and shadow pivot [7], one on each side of the ruck / pack, or both on same side of the ruck / pack). The halfback position is named with regard to halfway between the fullback and the forwards.

Usually, the Five-Eighth and Half-Back are a team's creative unit or 'playmakers'. During the interactions between a team's 'key' players (Five-Eighth, Half-Back, Fullback, Lock Forward, and Hooker), the Five-Eighth and Half-Back will usually be involved in most passing moves.

  • 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 (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 (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.

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).


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.[33] There are no limitations on which players must occupy these interchangeable slots. 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.[34] 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.

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.[32]

Leeds Rhinos playing at the 2008 boxing day friendly against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats at Headingley Stadium


Field position is crucial in rugby league,[31] 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, when the ball is kicked, 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.

The try is the most common form of scoring,[30] 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.

The objective in rugby league is to score more points through tries, goals (also known as conversions) 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 first sponsors, Joshua Tetley and John Player, entered the game for the 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.[29]

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.[26] 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.[28] 1967 saw the first professional Sunday matches of rugby league played.

[27].Queensland and New South Wales Rugby league then went on to displace rugby union as the primary football code in [26]

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