Rugby Betting Introduction

An introduction to Rugby Union and Rugby League

Rugby is one of the most physically demanding contact sports, played worldwide and enjoyed by millions of fans around the globe. Watching it can be tense and emotional, with the experience heightened further by the options which rugby betting offers.

Rugby’s unforgiving and brutal nature, allied with its tactical and strategic elements have led to the sport’s adoption as a source of great pride and rivalry between nations and regions.

Rugby is unique in its division into two codes; Rugby Union and Rugby League. Rugby Union originated in England in the early half of the 19th century, and quickly developed into a successful nationwide sport.

Rugby League was born in the north of England towards the end of the century following a split from the Rugby Football Union, and soon grew in popularity as its rules changed to evolve the sport into a faster-paced and more relentless version of the game.

Both codes grew in popularity around the world, as the sport expanded from its birthplace in the Home Nations of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales and spread to countries across Europe, as well as those that had an association with the British Empire, such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.


The main differences between Rugby Union and Rugby League

Rugby union and rugby league purists will emphasise the differences between the two codes, but thanks to their shared origin there are many similarities.

Both codes’ games are 80 minutes in duration (divided into two 40-minute halves), play with an oval ball, have H-shaped goal posts, and have the same fundamental rule that the ball cannot be passed forward. A try is the main method of scoring and yields the highest number of points, with penalty and drop goals and conversions being the other manners in which players can score. The points awarded for each scoring method is a major differentiating factor between rugby union and rugby league, with another key variance being the number of players on each team; 15 in rugby union and 13 in rugby league.

Thanks to other differences, such as there being a line-out in rugby union but not in rugby league, and the process after a tackle is made, rugby league has less of a of stop-start element than rugby union which leads to the ball being in play for more minutes per game.


Types of bets in Rugby Union and Rugby League

There are a vast number of rugby bets that can be placed in both union and league, with one of the most popular being match betting. In this format, a punter will be on the outright result of a game, and with the high-scoring nature of rugby and the likelihood of a draw being so low, the odds often favour placing your bet on a win for one of the teams involved. Longer odds for a draw infer a lower probability of a return. Recent form, injuries to key players, and the intensity of a team’s fixture list will all be factors that should be taken into consideration when weighing up your match bet.

Handicap betting rugby is another format that can make odds more interesting in terms of potential returns when looking at the markets.

This kind of bet is often best employed when there is a clear difference in skill level between two teams. A good example of this would have been New Zealand’s group stage game against Namibia in the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The defending champions and a pure rugby union powerhouse, up against a weaker team, would not have attracted interesting match odds in favour of New Zealand (who ultimately won the game 71-9). However, a handicap bet, in which a bookmaker would have given New Zealand a significant point handicap to overcome, would have yielded much more interesting betting odds and meant that New Zealand not only had to win the game, but also overcome the points handicap stated in the bet. This is an interesting bet to place in situations such as this, where one team is the clear favourite.

Teams’ scoring form is another statistic to consider when looking at rugby union and rugby league betting as you devise your betting strategy, and a well-plotted charting of recent points tallies in matches involving the two teams playing will help you to make a considered over/under bet. This type of wager sees punters guess whether a certain number of cumulative points scored by both teams will be exceeded in a match.

Using our example of New Zealand vs Namibia, a quick look at New Zealand’s previous two group games would have informed us that 99 points had been scored in those matches, against one strong team (South Africa) and one weaker team (Canada), and that New Zealand themselves had been in formidable scoring form. It would be logical to therefore bet on a high-scoring game when New Zealand go up against Namibia, so betting at over 50 points in the match would be a possible bet to place when observing rugby union betting markets.

Other good rugby betting tips can be found in individual player bets, where the biggest market is usually for first try scorer. This can be hard to predict, as there are so many variables that can change the course of a match in an instant, and while backs are usually the players who finish off team moves with a try, a heavier and less mobile forward could be the first man on the scoresheet if the battle for the first score is fought out between the two teams’ packs close to the try-line. If you aren’t feeling the first try scorer market, and study a match that looks like it may be a more tactical affair and thereby involve a kicking game, betting on a player to score over a certain number of points could be another interesting market. Fly halves are the men who are often charged with kicking duties, and in a match that is likely to be a tight affair a team will take as many kicking opportunities for points as possible. This will lead to the designated kicker racking up a personal points tally.

Rugby competitions to bet on

Major domestic and international rugby union tournaments such as the Gallagher Premiership in England, the Guinness PRO14 (with teams from Ireland, Wales, Scotland, South Africa and Italy), and the French Top14 provide regular betting opportunities involving the top European clubs. Meanwhile the 6 Nations is an annual international competition, with the Rugby World Cup every four years the pinnacle of international rugby union.

Rugby league has strong domestic competitions in the Northern Hemisphere with the Super League, which pits 10 English teams, one French and one Canadian team against one another in a league format, and Australia and New Zealand both enjoy a strong rugby league culture. Like rugby union, rugby league also has a World Cup every four years.