Following on from Ben Pobjie’s great article about positivity, I thought I would put my thoughts down on how Rugby should be promoted as being different to League.

This is not another article about what a competition shake-up or whether we should play nicely with the Kiwi’s, as we all know the answer to build our playing group and its competitiveness. Further, it is not a league bashing article as I too enjoy the spectacle.

While rugby and league spawned from the same place, they are now two vastly different games. While many people who propose rule changes (or are they law changes…) are doing so from a place of meaning well, I can’t help but think they want to make it more like league.

Siya Kolisi lifts The Webb Ellis Cup with his South African team mates. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

So instead of trying to be more like league, let’s embrace what makes rugby the wonderful game it is.
It is a world sport, played in 116 countries across the globe.

League is the domestically the dominant sport and played competitively in two other nations, whilst rugby is historically the code of the world.

The international game

With rugby, if you want to live in Ireland, Argentina, France, Japan or Italy, you can find a local team to play for. Instant connections with likeminded people. Likewise, if you want to live in Mauritius, Romania, Georgia, Korea, Kenya, Croatia, Canada or Greece.

Rugby Australia should be embracing this more…and expand the Giteau Law to allow all Australian players competing across the world to vie for selection in that green and gold guernsey.

With league, the international games are like a dessert wine at the end of a banquet, while with rugby it is the main course. The Rugby World Cup is a real competition with players drawn from at least six professional leagues around the world, where the Rugby League World Cup is made up of players from the NRL and English Super League – with players representing countries their parents or grandparents were born in.

With this in mind, Super Rugby doesn’t have to compete with the NRL. Sure, we all want Super Rugby to be competitive, go for longer and be able to fund itself, but it is not the main game. The main game is to have a successful national team.

15s and 7s are both genuine formats

League has its traditional 13-a-side game with a 10-a-side competition thrown in at the beginning of the season as a warmup spectacle and a chance for some young players to rub shoulders with the elite and show some flair in space.

Rugby on the other hand has two genuine formats, and as Michael Hooper is finding out, it isn’t that easy to seamlessly switch between the two. Standing beside the traditional game is the wonderful lung busting game of 7s and its tournament that plays around the world and at the Olympics.

Not only does it give players the opportunity to travel the world as a professional sportsperson, but it is also an excellent breeding ground for new talent.

Rugby is a contest

The thing that makes rugby and league different is the never-ending contest that starts at the base of the ruck.

In league you get six attempts to try and go through (or around) the opposition without having to worry too much about securing the ball. There might be one or two times a game where the ball gets stripped, but that is the exception rather than the rule.

League is based on big players hitting it up and wingers flying through the air – all the while knowing the ball is unlikely to be stolen from them.

In Rugby, every time the player is tackled, there is an opportunity for the ball to be pilfered. If there is a knock on, the forwards have a chance to win the scrum. If the ball goes out, regardless of who was responsible, you get a chance to win it back at the lineout.

Instead of bemoaning the time spent on scrums (and yes I would like penalties from scrums abolished and for there to be less time wasting), treasure the fact both teams are competing for the ball.
I remember watching the British and Irish Lions many moons ago with an AFL fan. Sitting about 30 metres away from the action, he was stunned by how hard they hit in the scrums.

Instead of complaining about the time wasting, he found it exciting to watch players compete and on the odd occasion, buckle under pressure. Why not talk about the G-force going through the front row’s shoulders, or the value of a strong second row, instead of lamenting how cold the winger’s hands are getting.

Players of all body shapes

I love it when the national anthem is being played and the camera pans across Nic White standing beside Will Skelton, or Aaron Smith against man mountain Brodie Retallick. It highlights the beauty of rugby, that it is a game for players of all body shapes.

Jordie Barrett, Aaron Smith and Brodie Retallick of New Zealand sing their national anthem prior to the Rugby World Cup France 2023 semi-final match between Argentina and New Zealand at Stade de France on October 20, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Adam Pretty - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Jordie Barrett, Aaron Smith and Brodie Retallick of New Zealand sing their national anthem before the Rugby World Cup 2023 semi-final match. (Photo by Adam Pretty – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

With league the hooker can also be the lock or a loose forward. The prop can become the second rower or lock. In league it is more about whether you play on the right or the left of the field than what position you are.

There are countless other differences, but in my opinion if Rugby Australia embraced these differences and promoted them, rugby could be successful without having to try an imitate league. Celebrate our games differences.

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