Rugby league is one of the two codes of rugby football, the other being rugby union. Over the decades following the 1895 birth of rugby league, the rules of both forms of rugby were gradually changed, with rugby league's rule changes resulting in a faster, more open spectator sport. Both sports share common characteristics but are in fact distinctly different games.
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Rugby League Edit
Rugby league football is a full-contact form of football, played with a prolate spheroid ball by two teams of thirteen players on a rectangular grass field. It is informally referred to as league, to distinguish it from rugby union.
Post-Doomsday, league is a prominent sport in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, and a less prominent sport in several English survivor nations as well as Singapore, New Britain, Tonga, Fiji, the Celtic Alliance, Lebanon, Prussia and Japan.
No formal international governing body exists, so the ANZC's National Rugby League is the sport's de facto international governing body. The NRL, partially due to self-interest and partially in response to union's International Rugby Union aggressive global promotion of its sport, has itself taken initiative to promote the growth of league, first in Oceania and southeast Asia, and more recently in the middle east, Europe (including former Great Britain), New Britain (with the support of enthusiasts who migrated from Britain) and Japan. For the long term, the NRL plans to promote the sport in North America and the Caribbean.
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Rugby Union Edit
Rugby union also is a full-contact form of football, played with an oval-shaped ball by two teams of 15 players apiece on a field 100 meters long and 70 meters wide, with an H-shaped goal at each end of the field. It is based on running with the ball in the hand. It is one of the most popular sports in the world, played on every continent, and thus far is the only one of the two rugby codes played formally at an international level.
In Australia, New Zealand and other countries where rugby league has a presence, rugby union is commonly referred to as union (to distinguish it from league). Where league is low-profile or unknown, union is commonly referred to as rugby or union.
The International Rugby Board, formed in 1886 in Great Britain, and re-formed in 1992 in Australia, is the official international governing body of the sport.
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International competitions Edit
The Rugby World Cup, first held in 2007, takes place every four years (like the football/soccer World Cup), with the winner of the tournament receiving the Webb Ellis Cup. It was held in the Australia portion of the ANZC in 2007, and will be played in the New Zealand portion in 2011. The Celtic Alliance was awarded the tournament for 2015. The United American Republic and Japan are bidding for 2019.
The tournament was first proposed in 1991, but with very few nations even holding competitions, it was deemed impractical to start up international competition. Over the past 16 years, nations resumed or began playing the sport, and the International Rugby Board decided to begin the process of starting a World Cup. The first such tournament was contested in the ANZC, primarily Australia, and was a six-team tournament; New Zealand defeated Australia in the championship match.
The 2011 competition was expanded to 16 national teams and, like the 2007 World Cup, an invitational tournament. It was played in September and October in the following cities:
- New Plymouth
- Palmerston North
The 16 nations competing in 2011, divided by pool category, with pool records (by wins, draws, losses and points, with four points for a victory, two for a draw and zero for a loss), were:
- Canada (1 win, 0 draws, 2 losses, 4 points)
- Japan (0-0-3, 0)
- New Zealand (3-0-0, 12)
- Tonga (2-0-1, 8)
- New Britain (1-0-2, 4)
- Northumbria and Cleveland (2-0-1, 8)
- United American Republic (3-0-0, 12)
- Victoria (0-0-3, 0)
- Alpine Confederation (1-0-2, 4)
- Australia (3-0-0, 12)
- Celtic Alliance (2-0-1, 8)
- Municipal States of the Pacific (0-0-3, 0)
- Andorra (0-1-2, 2)
- Fiji (2-0-1, 8)
- Samoa and Hawaii (3-0-0, 12)
- Union of South Africa (0-1-2, 2)
Pool play was followed by a single elimination tournament, consisting of the top two teams in each pool, to crown the 2011 Rugby World Cup champion.
Tonga 34, United American Republic 18
New Zealand 64, Northumbia and Cleveland 16
Australia 33, Fiji 20
Celtic Alliance 26, Samoa and Hawaii 24
New Zealand 42, Tonga 15
Australia 29, Celtic Alliance 24
Celtic Alliance 22, Tonga 10
New Zealand 22, Australia 12
The Six Nations in the southern hemisphere is the most prominent major annual international competition. The first competition saw the ANZC split into three sides (Australia, New Zealand, Samoa/Hawaii), competing with Chile, the United American Republic and a Tonga/Fiji side.
Tonga and Fiji have since split into separate sides, effectively making the competition a seven-nation field. Samoa continues to be grouped with Hawaii (given their common connection with the United States), but Hawaii's federation has set a goal of an all-Hawaiian team by 2018.
The Union of South Africa and New Britain began a home-and-home series in 2010.
The Celtic Alliance has discussed joining the Six Nations in the southern hemisphere, or starting a Six Nations type competition of its own against other European countries. The Alpine Confederation and Andorra have developed their own federations and domestic leagues and will be a part of the competition.
When the European Six Nations tournament begins in 2014, it may look very different. Welsh supporters in the Celtic Alliance have long lobbied for their portion of the nation to compete separately in international competition. One proposal involves splitting the Alliance into Ireland, Wales and Scotland, and for the varied English survivor nations to compete jointly as England.
A North American competition consisting of Mexico, Superior, Victoria and the MSP will begin in 2012.
Major domestic competitions include the Super 12 in Oceania and the Magners League, a domestic competition in the Celtic Alliance involving sides within the country from former Scotland, Wales and Ireland, plus an England side consisting of players from the former England portion of the Celtic Alliance and the nations of Cleveland and Northumbria.
Since the 1990s, development and expansion of rugby union has been a priority for the Australian and New Zealand federations and by the IRB. Early on the IRB and the Aussie/Kiwi's priorities sometimes clashed, leading them to come to an agreement on properly growing the sport in the post-Doomsday world. The national federations would do the bulk of the work in establishing union's roots in various countries, and the IRB would coordinate national federations' efforts.
The Australian and New Zealand federations continue to develop the sport throughout Asia, North America and Oceania (specifically Hawaii). The IRB is actively working on the European front with the help of the Celtic federation. Beginning with Andorra and the Alpine Confederation, the European Rugby Board is aggressively establishing the sport in the Basques, the Nordic Union and the survivor nations of former Germany and Poland.
The UAR's federation helped establish the sport in Mexico, but efforts at spreading union into the former United States, central America and the Caribbean have seen little success. The UAR and Chilean federations have had slightly better success at establishing clubs in other South American countries. The UAR and Chile have also aided Japan's federation in re-establishing the sport in that country. Rugby union was well-known in Japan before Doomsday. Anti-American and Australian perceptions in Japan threatened to kill the sport's rebirth (especially as the IRB was linked to Australia in the Japanese mindset); however, appeals to union's historical roots in Japan, as well as the active involvement of countries perceived to be Australian/New Zealander rivals, have helped re-establish union as a popular sport within Japan.
The UAR and Australian federations have worked together on establishing and growing the sport in the Municipal States of the Pacific, located on the former U.S. west coast.
New Zealand helped the Victoria federation get on its feet, while Celtic Alliance did the same for the Canadian federation in eastern North America. Superior's federation developed separately from any influence, but has reached out to the Mexican and Victorian federations in recent years (especially given Superior's history with Canada in the Saguenay War).
Sanctioning bodies Edit
The official international governing body for the sport is the International Rugby Board, which was re-established in Auckland, ANZC in 1992. The headquarters were moved to their current location, Dublin, Celtic Alliance, in 2005. It oversees the Rugby World Cup and other prominent international competitions. The IRB also oversees standards for national governing bodies, establishes laws for the sport, and suspends players and nations from competition if deemed necessary.