Exploring the Different Formats of Rugby


Rugby is a popular sport that is played in various formats around the world. While the basic principles remain the same, there are different playing styles and variations of the game. In this article, we will explore the three main formats of rugby: rugby union, rugby league, and sevens. Each format has its own unique characteristics, rules, and strategies.

Rugby Union

Rugby union is the most widely recognized and played format of rugby. It is played with 15 players on each team and is known for its physicality and tactical gameplay. The objective of the game is to score more points than the opposing team by scoring tries, conversions, penalties, and drop goals.

In rugby union, the game is divided into two halves, each lasting 40 minutes. The teams compete in scrums, lineouts, rucks, and mauls to gain possession and advance towards the opponent’s try line. The players are allowed to pass the ball backward and kick it forward to gain territory. The game requires a combination of strength, speed, skill, and strategy.

Rugby union is known for its complex set of rules and regulations. It emphasizes teamwork, discipline, and sportsmanship. The format is popular in countries like England, New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia, where it has a rich history and a strong following.

Rugby League

Rugby league is another popular format of rugby, particularly in countries like Australia, England, and Papua New Guinea. It is played with 13 players on each team, which results in a faster and more open style of play compared to rugby union.

The objective of rugby league is the same as rugby union, to score more points than the opposing team. However, the scoring system and rules differ slightly. In rugby league, there are fewer set pieces and more focus on continuous play. The game is divided into two halves of 40 minutes each.

Rugby league is known for its fast-paced, high-scoring nature. It places a greater emphasis on speed, agility, and individual skill. The players are allowed to pass the ball forward, which leads to a more expansive style of play. The format also has a stronger focus on defense, with players required to make quick decisions and tackles.

Rugby league is often seen as a more accessible and spectator-friendly format of rugby. It has its own dedicated leagues, competitions, and international tournaments that attract a passionate fan base.

Rugby Sevens

Rugby sevens is a condensed version of rugby that is played with only seven players on each team. It is known for its fast-paced, high-scoring action and is often played in a shorter timeframe compared to rugby union and rugby league.

The objective of rugby sevens is the same as the other formats, to score more points than the opposing team. However, the scoring system and rules are slightly different. The game is played in two halves of seven minutes each, making it a more intense and explosive experience.

Rugby sevens is characterized by its open and flowing style of play. The reduced number of players on the field allows for more space and opportunities for attacking moves. Speed, agility, and quick decision-making are crucial in this format. The players are required to possess exceptional ball-handling skills and the ability to exploit gaps in the defense.

Rugby sevens has gained popularity in recent years, particularly due to its inclusion in the Olympic Games. It attracts a wide audience and is known for its festive atmosphere and entertaining matches.


Understanding the different playing styles of rugby is essential for any fan or player of the sport. Whether it’s the physicality and tactical nature of rugby union, the fast-paced and open style of rugby league, or the explosive and high-scoring action of rugby sevens, each format offers its own unique experience. Exploring and appreciating these variations can enhance your enjoyment and appreciation of the game.

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