|Originated||1895, Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England|
|World Governing Body||Rugby League International Federation|
|World Club Champions||Leeds Rhinos (Leeds,UK)|
|International Rugby League|
|Test Nations||Australia Cook Islands England Fiji France Great Britain New Zealand Papua New Guinea Russia Samoa South Africa Tonga|
|Major Competitions|| The World Cup|
World Club Challenge
|Domestic Rugby League|
|Major Competitions|| National Rugby League (Australasia)|
Super League (Europe)
State of Origin (Australia)
French Rugby League Championship (France)
Bartercard Cup (New Zealand) )
American National Rugby League (USA)
Rugby league football is a full-contact team sport played with a prolate spheroid-shaped ball by two teams of thirteen on a rectangular grass field. Rugby league is one of the two major codes of rugby football, the other being rugby union. The league code is most prominent in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and France, where the sport is played professionally. Rugby league is also popular in Papua New Guinea where it is considered the national sport. The game is played to a lesser extent in several other countries, such as Russia, the United States and Lebanon.
Rugby league takes its name from what was initially a breakaway faction of the English Rugby Football Union (RFU) known as the Northern Rugby Football Union when established in 1895. Both organisations played the game under similar rules at first, until similar breakaway factions occurred from RFU-affiliated rugby football unions in Australia and New Zealand in 1907 and 1908, and formed associations known as rugby football leagues, introducing modified Northern Union rules to create a new form of rugby football. The Northern Union later changed its name to the Northern Rugby Football League in 1922 (later dropping the 'Northern') and thus, over time the sport itself became known as "rugby league". Over the following decades, the rules of both forms of rugby were gradually changed, and now rugby league and rugby union are distinctly different sports.
The grass 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, as is was widely known, had its main origins at Rugby School, Warwickshire, England.
In 1895 rugby football was beset with a schism that 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 in Huddersfield, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and formed the "Northern Rugby Football Union". There should have been another two persons present, representing the Morley Rugby Football Club, but as travel in those days could only be done by train, and was considered a long journey, the two representatives decided to fortify themselves in readiness for their arduous trip. This they did by calling at several hostelries on route to the station, meaning that they missed their train. This is why the Morley club—despite being based in the Rugby League heartland of South Leeds—still play the 15-man game. Within fifteen years of that first meeting in Huddersfield, more than 200 RFU clubs had left to join the rugby revolution.
The rules of the sport have changed significantly over the decades since rugby football split into the league and union codes. Rugby league players all need to be particularly physically fit and tough because of the game's fast pace and the expansive size of the playing-field as well as the inherently rough physical contact involved. Depending on his exact role or position, a player's size, strength and/or speed can provide different advantages (or disadvantages). Effective teamwork is also extremely important as all players must work in concert with each other if they are to be successful.
Players on field are divided into forwards and backs. Each position has a designated number, 1 to 13. Numbers 14 to 17 are given to players starting on the bench, who will come into the game as substitutes for other players who are injured, in need of a rest, or less suited to the coach's strategy for that particular phase of the game. Typically the bench is comprised of three forward substitutes and a hooker/halves substitute. Each side is allowed 12 substitutions per game. (For 2008, in the National Rugby League, each side may use up to 10 substitutions.)
The Halves: 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.
Australia has won every world cup since 1975. Until 25 November 2005, they had also not lost an international tournament or series of any kind for twenty-seven years until they lost to New Zealand in the final of the 2005 Tri-Nations Series at Elland Road in Leeds.
In the United Kingdom, rugby league has traditionally been associated with the "heartland" counties of northern England where the game originated (Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria). However, the game is growing in popularity nationwide, with television figures showing 50% of viewers come from the South of England and record participation numbers in the junior game. Despite this, the majority of teams remain in the North.
Despite having had many strong teams historically, rugby à treize in France has struggled to compete with rugby union since the Vichy government banned the sport and seized some assets during World War II. However, French rugby league remained reasonably strong after the war, and the French team reached the final of the 1954 and 1968 Rugby League World Cups. In 2006, the Super League admitted the Catalans Dragons, who on 29 July 2007, made it to the Challenge Cup final, being the first non-English team to do so. The admittance of the Dragons to Super League has seen a renaissance of sorts in French rugby league, with newfound enthusiasm for the sport in traditional areas, predominantly 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 Georgia, the Netherlands, Germany, Estonia, Malta, Serbia, Argentina, Jamaica, and Rugby League Playing Nations links 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.