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League VS Union: Which Rugby Is Best For Fitness?

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There's no denying that rugby is a great way to get fit, but which kind is the best? First, we should probably point out the differences between these two different rugby styles as even the most avid rugby fan may not be entirely sure. The separation began all the way back in the 1890s when Northern English rugby clubs decided to compensate players financially who were missing hours at work to play. Unfortunately, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) did not approve of this and instead banned teams from paying players in any way. Needless to say, the Northern clubs were not happy and so broke away to form their own separate sporting institution. Later, the RFU did permit rugby league players to receive payment, but rugby union had to wait over one hundred years to be considered a professional sport. Here are the differences that still exist to this day:

Rugby League

Source: Pixabay

Let's begin with the players: in rugby league, there are 13 active players and 10 substitutions allowed during any given game. The players' aim is to score tries, while the other team attempts to tackle them to the ground before they can do so. When a league player is tackled, they must attempt to drop the ball and kick it behind them to another player. There is a finite tackle limit in league, however, and once this is reached the ball will be handed to the other team. When the ball is out of play after the finite tackle limit, a scrum is awarded to the opposing team, which usually ends in them receiving the ball to play on. If the team score a try they will be given 4 points, while a goal is worth 2 points and a field goal is worth just 1 point.

Rugby Union

Now, on to union where there are 15 active players and just 7 substitutions are allowed during a game. The main aim here is to touch the ball down at the other side of the opponent's try line, though points are also awarded for kicking the ball through the goal posts. In union, if a player is tackled, the ball can be picked up by hand instead of kicked backwards, though whoever grabs the ball must be on their feet and must have approached from the onside position. Unlike league, there is no finite tackle limit and if the ball is out of play a line-out is awarded “ though scrums are awarded for other infringements. It is arguably this frenzied gameplay style that has attracted so many people to union, with an avid fanbase attending games, watching them on TV and even placing bets on union games at sportsbooks like William Hill. It's all very exciting: if a try is scored, the team earns a total of 5 points, a penalty kick or drop kick is given 3 points and finally, a conversion kick is awarded 2 points. 

Which Is Better For Fitness?

So, which is better for fitness: league or union? According to Jonathan Davies, who has played in both rugby league and union games, though union often requires a bit more speed, the ball play in league is more intense, meaning you have to do a lot more running without stopping. Tulsen Tollet agrees, telling the BBC that his aerobic fitness decreased after moving to union, having spent years running up and down the field in league.

Clearly, if you're looking to get fit, rugby league is the rugby style for you, though if you support union it's not as though that's an easy game either. Let us know if you play rugby, and if so, which kind? Just leave a comment below, we'd love to hear from you.