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Rugby league football, usually called simply rugby league, is a full-contact form of football, played with a prolate spheroid ball by two teams of thirteen players on a rectangular grass field. One of the two codes of rugby football, following rugby league's split from the Rugby Football Union in 1895 its rules were changed in an attempt to create a more entertaining version of the sport.

Frequently cited as the toughest and most physically demanding of any team sport in the world, the primary aim in rugby league is to carry or kick the ball towards the opponent's goal line where points can be scored by grounding the ball; this is called a try. After scoring a try, the team is allowed the chance to try at goal with a conversion - a kick for further points. The opposing team will attempt to stop the attacking side gaining points by preventing their progress up the field by tackling the player carrying the ball.
 
Rugby league is most prominent in Australia, England, New Zealand, France and Papua New Guinea, being the national sport in the last. New Zealand are the current World Cup holders.
 
The roots of rugby league can be traced to early football history, through the playing of ball games which bear little resemblance to modern sports. It is then important to acknowledge the development of the modern football codes and two separate schisms in football history.
 
In 19th century England, football was most prominently played in private schools. Each school had its own rules based on whatever playing field was available to them. The rules could be categorised as either handling or kicking forms of football. The kicking and handling forms were later codified by The Football Association and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) respectively. Rugby football had its origins at Rugby School, Warwickshire, England.
 
In 1895, a schism in Rugby football resulted in the formation of the Northern Rugby Football Union (NRFU). Although many factors played a part in the split, including the success of working class northern teams, the main division was caused by the RFU decision to enforce the amateur principle of the sport, preventing "broken time payments" to players who had taken time off work to play rugby. Northern teams typically had more working class players (coal miners, mill workers etc.) who could not afford to play without this compensation, in contrast to southern teams who had other sources of income to sustain the amateur principle. There were similar movements in other countries. In 1895 a decree by the RFU banning the playing of rugby at grounds where entrance fees were charged led to the famous meeting on 29 August 1895. Twenty-two clubs (plus Stockport who negotiated by telephone) met at The George Hotel, Huddersfield in the West Riding of Yorkshire and formed the "Northern Rugby Football Union". Within fifteen years of that first meeting in Huddersfield, more than 200 RFU clubs had left to join the rugby revolution.
 
In 1897, the line-out was abolished and in 1898 professionalism introduced.
 
In 1906, the Northern Union changed its rules, reducing teams from 15 to 13 a side and replacing the scrum formed after every tackle with the play the ball.
 
A similar schism occurred in Sydney, Australia. There on the 8th August 1907 the New South Wales Rugby Football League was founded at Bateman's Hotel in George St. Rugby league then went on to displace rugby union as the primary football code in New South Wales and Queensland.
 
In 1954 around 120,000 spectators watched the Challenge Cup final in England, setting a new record for attendance at a rugby football match of either code. Also in 1954 the Rugby League World Cup, the first for either code of rugby, was formed at the instigation of the French.
 
In 1966, the International Board introduced a rule that a team in possession was allowed three play-the-balls and on the fourth tackle a scrum was to be formed. This was increased to six tackles in 1972 and in 1983 the scrum was replaced by a handover.
 
1967 saw the first professional Sunday matches of rugby league played.
 
The first sponsors entered the game, Joshua Tetley and John Player, for Britain's 1971-72 Northern Rugby Football League season.
 
Television would have an enormous impact on the sport of rugby league in the 1990s when Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation sought worldwide broadcasting rights and refused to take no for an answer. The media giant's "Super League" movement saw big changes for the traditional administrators of the game. In Europe it resulted in a move from a winter sport to a summer one as the new Super League competition tried to expand its market. In Australasia, the Super League war resulted: long and costly legal battles and changing loyalties, causing significant damage to the code in an extremely competitive sporting market. In 1997 two competitions were run alongside each other in Australia, after which a peace deal in the form of the National Rugby League was formed. The NRL has since become recognised the sport's flagship competition.
 
In Australia in 2009, rugby league's popularity was confirmed as it had the highest television ratings of any football code.
 

Rules


The objective in rugby league is to score more points through tries, goals and field goals (also known as drop goals) than the opposition within the 80 minutes of play. If after two halves of play, each consisting of forty minutes, the two teams are drawing, a draw may be declared, or the game may enter extra time under the golden point rule, depending on the relevant competition's format.
 
The try is the most common form of scoring, and a team will usually attempt to score one by running and kicking the ball further upfield, or passing from player-to-player in order to manoeuvre around the opposition's defence. A try involves touching the ball to the ground on or beyond the defending team's goal-line and is worth four points. A goal is worth two points and may be gained from a conversion or a penalty. A field goal, or drop goal, is only worth one point and is gained by dropping and then kicking the ball on the half volley between the uprights in open play.
 
Passing in rugby league may only be in a backward or sideways direction. Teammates therefore have to remain on-side by not moving ahead of the player with the ball. However the ball may be kicked ahead for teammates, but again, if they are in front of the kicker they are deemed off-side. Tackling is a key component of rugby league play. Only the player holding the football may be tackled. A tackle is completed when that player's progress is halted, or he is put to ground. An attacking team gets a maximum of six tackles to progress up the field before possession is changed over. Ball control is also important in rugby league, as a fumble of the ball on the ground forces a handover, unless the ball is fumbled backwards.
 

Positions


Players on the field are divided into forwards and backs, although the game's rules apply to all players the same way. Each position has a designated number to identify himself from other players. These numbers help to identify which position a person is playing. The system of numbering players is different depending on which country the match is played in. In Australia and New Zealand, each player is usually given a number corresponding to their playing position on the field. However, since 1996 European teams have been able to grant players specific squad numbers, which they keep in irrelevance to the position they play, similarly to association football. This can mean that although only seventeen players can be announced in any rugby league squad, shirt numbers of 18 or higher are also used.
 
Interchanges (generally referred to as "The Bench") are allowed in the sport, and are typically used when a player gets tired or injured, although they can also be used tactically. Each team is currently allowed four substitutes, and in Australia and New Zealand, these players occupy shirt numbers 14 to 17.There are no limitations on what players must occupy these interchangeable slots, and interchanged players may re-enter the field of play again following a second interchange. Generally, twelve interchanges are allowed in any game from each team, although in the National Rugby League, this was reduced to ten prior to the 2008 season. If a team has to interchange a player due to the Blood Bin rule or due to injury, and this was the result of misconduct from the opposing team, the compromised team does not have to use one of its allocated interchanges to take the player in question off the field.
 

Backs


The backs are generally smaller, faster and more agile than the forwards. They are often the most creative and evasive players on the field, relying on running, kicking and handling skills, as well as tactics and set plays, to break the defensive line, instead of brute force. Generally forwards do the majority of the work (hit-ups/tackling). They help to create advantages for the backs by winning the ball in rucks and scrums. Since there is no blocking in rugby like in American Football, the forwards are the back-up support and are the ones who "win" the ball back.
 
Usually, the stand-off half and scrum half, are a team's creative-unit or 'playmakers'. During the interactions between a team's 'key' players (stand-off half, scrum half, full-back, loose forward, and hooker), the stand-off half and scrum half will usually be involved in most passing moves.
 
 

Forwards


The forwards' two responsibilities can be broken into "normal play" and "scrum play". Forward positions are traditionally named after the player's position in the scrum yet are equal with respect to "normal play" with the exception of the hooker. Forward positions are traditionally broken into:
 
 

Rugby league worldwide


Rugby league is played in more than 50 countries worldwide. The strongest rugby league nations are England, Australia and New Zealand, who contest the Rugby League Four Nations most years. Rugby league is the national sport of Papua New Guineanand is also played professionally in France, and Wales. It is due to be played professionally in the United States by 2010.
 
The current World Champions are New Zealand, who won the 2008 Rugby League World Cup. Prior to this, Australia had won every world cup since 1975.
 
In Australia, rugby league is the dominant winter sport in Queensland and New South Wales.
 
In England, rugby league has traditionally been associated with the northern counties of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbriawhere the game originated although its popularity has also increased elsewhere. Figures published by the Rugby Football League showed an 81% increase in women playing the sport in the twelve months prior to October 2008, as well as an increase in juniors of both genders. Despite this, all but two of the thirteen British Super League teams originate from the sport's traditional counties. No professional team currently exists in either Scotland or Northern Ireland, although the Challenge Cup final has been held in Edinburgh's Murrayfield Stadium twice, as well as the 2009 Magic Weekend.Over 40,000 players were registered by the RFL as of October 2008.
 
France first played rugby league as late as 1934, where in the five years prior to World War II, the sport's popularity increased as Frenchmen became disenchanted with the state of French rugby union in the 1930s. However, after the Allied Forces were defeated by Germany in June 1940, the Vichy regime in the south seized assets belonging to rugby league authorities and clubs, and banned the sport for its association with the left-wing Popular Front government that had governed France before the War.The sport was unbanned after the Liberation of Paris in August 1944 and the collapse of the Vichy regime, although it was still actively marginalised by the French authorities until the 1990s. Despite this, the national side appeared in both finals of the 1954 and 1968 World Cups, and the country hosted in 1954 event. In 1996, a French team, Paris St-Germain was one of eleven teams which formed the new European Super League, although the club was dissolved in 1997 due to its failure to run at a profit and poor attendances.[In 2006, the Super League admitted the Catalans Dragons, a team from Perpignan in the southern Languedoc-Roussillon region. They have subsequently reached the 2007 Challenge Cup Final, and made the play-offs of the 2008 Super League season. The success of the 'Dragons' in Super League has initiated a renaissance in French rugby league, with new-found enthusiasm for the sport in the south of the country where most of the Elite One Championship teams are based.
 
Early 21st century developments have seen countries such as Germany, Lebanon, Malta, Russia, Spain, the Czech Republic, Jamaica, and others take up the game and compete in international rugby league tournaments or matches, with efforts being made by the Rugby League European Federation to expand the game to new areas. 2008-09 has seen development of teams in northern Europe, especially Scandinavia. Initial plans for this Nordic group of countries will see these teams establish a regional playing platform. The first specific example of a rugby league tournament in this area of Europe came in 2009, when a rugby league nines tournament was held in Norway featuring teams from the host country, Germany, Sweden, and Denmark, as well as three rugby union teams.
 
In the United States, the country's first fully professional league, the National Rugby League USA, is due to be launched in 2010 or 2011, with the aim of building the sport's profile in the country, and providing more talent for the national team.

Source: Wikipedia

 


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