Rugby debate: Why League is infinitely better than Union
Albert Vete of Hull KR and Will Dagger celebrate at the final whistle during the Betfred Super League Play-Off match between Warrington Wolves and Hull Kingston Rovers at The Halliwell Jones Stadium on September 24, 2021 in Warrington, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

A recent video by was shared on social media this week that had Rugby Union fans being interviewed before the England vs Ireland match last weekend has caused quite a stir amongst sports fans. 

The video asked Rugby Union fans the question - “Can Rugby Learn Anything from Football?”

Many of them quite arrogantly proclaimed that it was Football that should be taking lessons from Rugby, and to even ask the question was a crime against humanity.

  • League or Union - Which is the better code? Simple…

I found it quite ironic that these “Rugby” fans had been interviewed for an opinion on an issue when the followers of Union don’t even follow the better code of Rugby. 

Perhaps I should explain - living on the so-called “M62 corridor” between Yorkshire and Lancashire, many people’s second sport (other than perhaps Cricket) is Rugby League.

Although its reputation may be taking a battering this season due to rule changes on high tackles, the sport is one that many follow even more religiously than football.

Passions are high in my home city - Kingston Upon Hull - with two very well supported teams in Super League, the Elite League in Europe. Hull Kingston Rovers and Hull FC love to hate each other and there will be great excitement in the city when the first Derby of 2022 takes place at Easter. 

So, the big question - why do I think League is better than Union? 

  • Gameplay is Superior in League

Firstly, the gameplay in League is far superior to Union. League is structured so teams have “Sets of Six” - six tackles at a time to get as far up the pitch as possible, with the try line the obvious target. 

This creates order to the play, rather than the majority of the players just diving on each other in the ruck before the ball is usually just booted forward in a glorified game of tennis between the two kickers in Union.

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  • Scoring system rewards Tries in League - which leads to more excitement 

Secondly, the scoring system in League rewards tries. All too often have I tried to watch a Union game and seen penalties converted for three points. Tries in Union are five points, but more often than not teams take the kick at goal and make the game dull and uninspiring. 

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Drop goals, too, are worth three points - sheer lunacy. The game is geared towards kicking and the focus ends up being on the kickers, not the skilful ball players.

League has it right - tries four points, conversions/penalties two points and drop goals just a point. The focus is to score tries rather than penalties and the League code is far more exciting and action packed as a result.

  • League fans are often more down to earth 

I could go on and on about the types of people to follow both codes - and without wanting to stereotype either fan - I’ve always found League fans far more down to earth, as the majority of them are from working class towns and cities. 

Many older League fans I’ve spoken to claim that Union turning “professional” in 1995 was simply an excuse to justify the high wages they were allegedly paying big names who chose to play in an “amateur” game. 

They told me League were always forthcoming with what they paid players, but Union hid behind a “jobs for the boys” attitude and the money in Union has always been far more substantial.

  • League is far from perfect - but it trumps Union 

There are many things wrong with Rugby League, by the way. The RFL (Rugby Football League) who run Super League are often accused of being unfit for purpose, the rule changes this season are causing some fans to fall in love out of the game and no team in Europe holds a candle to any team in the NRL (National Rugby League) in Australia, where Rugby League is the national sport. 

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However; if you like Rugby, but have never given League a try, you should do it. You’ll never go back to the dull, uninspiring and often tedious Union code ever again once you get used to the differences.