Rugby Union Vs Rugby League: What's the difference?


One of the biggest questions in the sport of rugby, especially for newcomers, involves the differences between rugby league and rugby union. Big tournaments such as the Six Nations, the World Cup, Pacific Cup and Pacific Challenge are all played under rugby union rules. There are also tournaments appropriately named ‘Rugby League World Cup’ and ‘Four Nations’ amongst others that all play under rugby league rules.

The differences between rugby union and rugby league:

  1. The number of players
  2. The size of the pitch
  3. Scoring
  4. Possession rules
  5. The shape of the rugby ball

The Number of Players

In rugby union, there are 15 players on each team, whereas with Rugby League there are only 13 players on each team. Rugby Union matches can see up to 8 substitutions during a game, whereas there are up to 10 allowed in rugby league.

The Size of The Rugby Pitch

Due to the smaller number of players, rugby league pitches are also smaller in size:

Rugby League Pitch: 112 - 122m x 68m
Rugby Union Pitch: 144m x 70m


In rugby union, a try is worth 5 points to the scoring team, with a conversion awarding them a further 2 points. A drop goal and penalty are also 3 points each.

In rugby league, a try is worth 4 points to the scoring team and a conversion is 2 points. However, a drop goal is only 1 point and a penalty is only 2 points.


In rugby union, each team can hold on to the ball as long as they like, until the other team manages to take possession.

In rugby league, a team must hand possession of the ball over if they are tackled 6 times.

The Rugby Balls

While not obvious, there is a slight visual difference in the rugby balls comparing rugby union and league. Overall they are a similar size but the ball used for Rugby league will have slightly more pointed edges.

We stock a range of Rugby balls in your country’s colours as well as those themed for Glasgow Warriors, the Rugby World Cup and more.

Which game is tougher?

Both rugby league and rugby union are incredibly physically demanding. Both require large amounts of strength, speed and endurance. However, rugby league could be seen as tougher due to less players on each team and lower scoring numbers. However, rugby union is certainly no walk in the park.

Both rugby league and rugby union are incredibly fun to watch. There is no feeling quite like Murrayfield stadium packed full of people cheering on the Scotland Rugby team (or whichever team they choose to support). While both types of rugby have their similarities, not all aspects are the same.

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