From a young age, I have always been fascinated by rugby, much to the bemusement of my football-obsessed father and brothers. When I started winning a few bets here and there on the game, their confusion quickly turned to curiosity. Then came the questions, and rugby vs. football comparisons.
While the game does share some tangible qualities with football (egg-shaped ball, throws, kicks, and some big hits), in reality, they are very different sports. The game is incredibly popular in the Southern Hemisphere, where it is the national sport of New Zealand (the most dominant sports team in history), South Africa, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, and Namibia. It is also popular elsewhere. Well, Western Europe, that is.
While Ireland are the current kings of Europe, the game is surprisingly not even in the top three of their most popular sports. In England, it is incredibly popular, however. In Wales, it is the national sport and more of a religion than anything else! Scotland, France, and Italy are the other three teams which make up the Six Nations tournament, which is, in my opinion, the greatest tournament in the world to bet on.
You might be asking yourself what is it about rugby that makes it so appealing. I mean, in the U.S. we have football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and so many other sports to choose from when betting. Why look elsewhere to a sport which doesn’t even scrape the national consciousness, never mind grip it by the scruff of the neck? Well, it’s far too awesome to explain in one sentence. Instead, I will break it down, piece by piece, below.
Before we begin, I will shock you all and just let this out: there are two codes of rugby.
By codes, I mean types. That’s right. There are two separate games under the rugby banner, which are known as “rugby union” and “rugby league.” Shock, horror, cantaloupes! What I will be discussing below is rugby union, so anyone only interested in league can show themselves to the imaginary door to the right. Oh, and don’t slam it on your way out. Thank you. Now we can begin.
Rugby is a game which originated in a place by the same name (Rugby, please keep up) in the 19th Century. As legend has it, a young rogue by the name of William Webb Ellis picked up the ball while playing a game of soccer, and ran with it down the pitch, much to the shock of everyone else. While this story does paint the picture of everyone dropping their tea and crumpets at once, shouting “blasphemy!” it is not backed by fact.
Yes, in other words, it appears to be a myth. What is not a myth is that Webb Ellis was a real guy. You need proof? No problem. The trophy presented to winners of rugby union’s World Cup is called the William Webb Ellis Cup. Satisfied? Great, so we can continue.
In rugby, there are two teams of 15 players. Both teams compete in two 40-minute halves. The team which has scored more points than the other at the end of 80 minutes wins the game.
There are two H-shaped goalposts at the end of the pitch, where a try can be scored past the line behind the posts. A try is worth 5 points. A try-scoring team are immediately awarded a kick called a “conversion,” which is worth an additional two points. A penalty kick is worth 3 points, as is a drop-goal.
In rugby, there are 15 different positions which make up a team.
Numbers 1 to 8 (forwards) comprise of:
(1) Loosehead prop, (2) Hooker, (3) Tighthead prop, (4) Second Row/Lock, (5) Second Row/Lock, (6) Blindside Flanker, (7) Openside Flanker, (8) Number Eight
My personal opinion why rugby has not caught on in the U.S. is down to the names of the positions. I mean, what parents want to allow their children to play a game where their position is called a “Hooker?” And what genius came up with the groundbreaking idea that the position of the guy wearing the number 8 jersey should be called a “Number Eight?”
Numbers 9 to 15 (backs) comprise of:
(9) Scrum-Half, (10) Fly-Half/Outside Half, (11) Left-Wing, (12) Inside-Centre, (13) Outside-Centre, (14) Right-Wing, (15) Full-Back
You might agree that the backs positions are a little more reasonably named. While the forwards are the true workhorses and powerhouses, the backs are the guys who create the flair, and, erm, get all the glory.
Sometimes you will hear rugby compared to football, or even labeled as “football without helmets and padding.” I have personally heard this term – and ones like it – used quite a lot in reference to rugby, and it could not be further from the truth.
For a start, in rugby, the ball can only be thrown directly to the side or passed backward. If the ball is thrown forwards, this is a violation. You can kick the ball forward, however, and this is commonly performed by both teams. When the ball is kicked out of play, the game is restarted by a line-out, where the hooker will throw the ball in while both teams battle to win the ball in the air.
Any other stop in play will be contested by a scrum, which is where all eight forwards contest a ball placed in between them by the scrum-half. This is where forwards really get the chance to shine, and a rugby scrum can be one of the most physically brutal exchanges on the sports field in any team sport known to man. Sometimes, it can be very boring to watch, however.
When the action is flowing, and rugby is in full swing, there is no better game to bet on. The ups and downs of this sport are truly like none other out there. This makes it the ideal sport to bet on, especially as there are so many different markets available to punters. You’re more than likely wondering what these are by now, so let’s get down to business!
You will be delighted to know that there are a number of different bets which you can place on a game of rugby. These bets are varied – from a simple bet on the winner of the game – to the first try or points scorer.
As in most sports, there are three potential outcomes of a game in rugby.
A bet on the winner of a game is, without doubt, the most popular bet there is in rugby. However, given that there can often be a discernible difference in the strengths of teams, handicap bets are the norm. Said another way, in order to keep bets interesting to gamblers when there is a clear difference in class, oddsmakers will offer odds with handicap points bets.
The following bets are the ones which I would recommend to any gamblers new to rugby. While they are varied in the odds they offer, they are all easy bets to place and help to enhance the fun when watching a game.
The most basic bet in rugby, a winner bet is simply a bet on a team to win.
For example, New Zealand (-150) are playing Ireland (+100). You back New Zealand to win at these odds and place a bet of $150 in order to win $100. If you back Ireland to win, you must place a bet of $100 to win $100.
As you can see from the example above, this is as simple a “pick ’em” bet as they come. Which team do you fancy the most? Put your money where your mouth is and let the action take care of itself.
While New Zealand and Ireland are the two best teams on the planet right now, what happens when either team plays a weaker side? Well, the bookmakers still want to keep things interesting for gamblers.
In order to do this, they will advertise odds which are not too far from even for both teams. There is a catch though, obviously enough. This catch is that there will be handicap bets introduced.
Let’s say New Zealand are playing Namibia in the World Cup. New Zealand are pretty much guaranteed to win, given their strength and prowess. If you want to back New Zealand, you must accept the bet that they start the game -60 points down. Namibia begin the game with a +60 points headstart. This means that your winning bet on New Zealand will only happen if they beat Namibia by 60 points or more.
This bet is very common in rugby. Much like betting on a team to win in full time, you are betting on a team to win the first half of the game.
Let us say that South Africa are playing Argentina. South Africa are -120 to be winning by half-time. Argentina are +180. A $120 dollar bet on South Africa to take the first half will win $100 dollars, while a $100 bet on Argentina to win the first half will win $180.
This bet is very straightforward and is basically the same as just picking the winning team, but with the result coming at half-time. This bet can be an interesting one for smart players who understand that some teams that often start slower (we’re looking at you, All Blacks), before ramping up the pressure in the second-half.
This bet is one of my favorites, hands down.
The idea is to predict the team that is winning at half-time and the team that is winning at full-time. With this bet, the team winning at halftime doesn’t have to be the same that wins at full-time.
For example, Wales are playing France. Wales are a team that are slow-starters, while France is the team that comes out like madmen. While France are likely to play their best rugby in the first 50 or 60 minutes, Wales are fitter and pick things up in the last quarter. Your bet, in this case, might be a France win at half-time and a Wales win at full-time.
You will often find that this bet can be very revealing in rugby, especially where one team has a track record of improvement in the later stages of a game.
You have 30 players on the field to choose from when predicting who will score the first try.
The star players, which are usually the backs, will have shorter odds. Wingers, centres, and full-backs are the players which will usually be more likely to score. The odds of a winger scoring, in comparison to a forward, can often be night and day. Your job as a gambler is to figure out what type of game it is.
Is the weather fine or wet and windy? If it is the latter, the game is going to favor power, and slow, trudging pushes towards the try line. The waltzing runs and deft passes are going to be rare, given that catching the ball is a problem in itself. Therefore, you may think that a bet on Cian Healy of Ireland scoring a try with super-high odds is worth it. You may find that your logic pays off.
In the rare occasion that no tries are scored, you will lose your bet. Sorry to break that to you.
Like the first try scorer, this bet is a prediction on the last player to score a try in the game.
Also, like the first try scorer, you will lose your bet if there is no try scorer. Don’t let that deter you, however. Southern Hemisphere rugby, in particular, typically sees a high number of tries in most games, as it is more attack-minded than Northern Hemisphere rugby.
Your options are the same as in any try-scorer bet: pick a player, place your bet, and hope that player runs in a try when you need them to. It’s that simple. What is not simple is figuring out which player will score that last try. It is essentially a shot in the dark. However, you can employ some logic when choosing the last try-scorer bet.
Think about: what type of game it is (championship or exhibition), how the weather is (more forwards or backs tries?), if there is a player set to retire (it is customary in rugby to let a retiree score the last try or kick). Make the smart pick and you may win yourself a nice bet.
A pretty good bet, but not one which comes with odds as high as the first or last try bets.
This bet will effectively payout when your choice scores at any point in a game. Regardless if they score first or last, or in the first minute or the last, you will win the bet once they cross the line and are awarded a try.
Given that there are more opportunities for your selection to score, the prices will not be as appealing. On the other hand, you can still get decent odds if you choose a forward who has not scored a try for a while. This bet is still taking a leap of faith, albeit one with a pretty soft landing.
Exactly as it sounds, this is a bet on the first team to register a score in a game of rugby.
This can be a penalty kick, a try, or a drop-goal. Regardless of how the team scores, you win! When deliberating on which team will score first, there are a few things you can take into consideration. For example, who is the team more likely to come out pumped up and angry? Is this the home team? Are they trying to settle a grudge in this game? OK, so that might be the team that gives away the first penalty.
If the first penalty is given away inside their own half, this will give the opposing team the chance to kick at goal. If that kick at goal is successful, bingo! That is the first score on the board, and those lucky (or smart enough) to have backed that team scoring first, wins. This is the perfect example of how gamblers can use logic to make the right decisions and improve their chances of winning.
It is such a shame that rugby is not more popular across the U.S.
As a team sport, it is among the most intriguing and exciting there is on earth. With earth-shattering hits, deft passes, and gravity-defying skills, this sport is simply unmatched. While many team sports (such as soccer or basketball) offer one way to score or win a game, in rugby, there are multiple ways a game can swing in the favor of a team.
Each of the fifteen players on each side has their own particular role to play, and every player has the power to be the difference in the game. This is what sets rugby apart from most other team games in the world. As a spectator sport, it can be gripping, ugly, beautiful, and attritional. All in the same game.
With so many different bets on offer, it is also a game which will be welcomed by gamblers from all backgrounds. Despite what your current views are on the sport, I believe every true sports fan should give rugby a chance. Every gambling enthusiast simply has to!
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