Rugby in the United Kingdom

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Rugby in the United Kingdom is growing in popularity. There is a basic divide between rugby league and rugby union. Rugby Union is mainly centred in the south of England, Wales and Scotland, it is perceived by most of the media to be the superior form of rugby because of the popularity of the six nations competition (a competition including England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France and Italy). Rugby Union has also grown in popularity since England won the Rugby Union world cup in 2003 and reaching the final against South Africa in 2008. Most premiership Rugby Union clubs attract attendances of 10,000+ and many more watch on television. However, Rugby Union clubs often do not benefit from the number of internationals they have within their team because often teams will have to play without their star players if they are on international duty. This problem has led London Wasps (one of the strongest sides in the English premiership) to be currently residing in the bottom half of the table and struggling to make the play offs.

Rugby League on the other hand is mainly centred within North England, across Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cheshire. However, recently the Super League has expanded to include a club in London, Wales and even the South of France. The international game of rugby league does not play as an important role as in rugby union. Although England’s recent failure in the rugby league world cup has affected the reputation of the international game, which New Zealand won. However, the club scene continues to flourish. Super League is dominated by two clubs; Leeds Rhinos and St Helens who have competed in the last two grand finals, both of which Leeds Rhinos won. Leeds Rhinos boast an average attendance of 16,000 and recently attracted a sell out crowd of 32,500 fans for their game against Manly Sea Eagles (Australian NRL champions) in the World Club Challenge.

Both forms of rugby are secondary to that of football in the United Kingdom, however, ask any rugby league or union fan and they will happily tell you that they have the best sport in the world. There is a great rivalry between the two forms of rugby in the United Kingdom, both developed from the same sport but separated over a dispute over rules over a century ago. Attendances are on the rise, as are television viewing audiences. It will be a long time before either sport can challenge the overwhelming popularity of football but they are certainly on the up.


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