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How to Bet on Rugby for Beginners

How to Bet on Rugby for Beginners

If you’re a rugby fan, now’s a great time to be alive! After, the Six Nations has just kicked off with a comeback thrilling victory by the Welsh in Paris, while the latest iteration of the Super League has also gotten underway.

Despite the fact that both codes of the sport are thriving in the UK, a relatively low number of rugby fans like to bet on their favourite teams. This may be due to the complex nature of both codes, which prevents punters from making the most of the range of markets on offer.

In this article, we’ll provide a beginner’s guide for wagering on rugby and ask how you can develop a viable betting strategy.

Understanding the Difference between Rugby Union and Rugby League


In many ways, rugby is unique as there are two distinct codes of the sport. Each has its own set of rules and target audience, while the differences between these two codes also have a seminal impact on the viewing experience available to fans.

So, let’s start by understanding the differences between the two codes and how the rules alter the nature of the gameplay.

Rugby Union

Rugby Union matches feature two halves of 40 minutes, with 15 players lining up on each competing side.

The aim is to accumulate points through various means, including grounding the ball in a marked section at the opposite end of the pitch to score a “try”. This is worth five points, and teams have the opportunity to immediately add a further two points by kicking a “conversion” through the H-shaped goal posts.

In open play, teams will attempt to make ground by carrying the ball and passing it backwards across the pitch. This may sound counterintuitive, but the aim is to release pacey backs in wide areas of the pitch and encourage them to breach the defensive line.

As for the defending team, their goal is to tackle players and bring them to the floor legally, after which a “ruck” is formed from which play can continue. If an attacker stays on his feet, a “maul” is formed and the offensive team can look to drive forward to make up ground.

Penalties are also awarded after various infringements, with teams having the opportunity to either kick for touch and win an attacking “line-out” or have an attempt at goal in a bid to add three points to their score.

Rugby League

Like Rugby Union, Rugby League games last for two halves of 40 minutes, while the aim remains to outscore the opposition by scoring tries, conversions, penalties and one-point drop goals (these are worth three points in Rugby Union).

This is where the similarities end, however, as Rugby League line-ups only feature 13 players and are faced with specific time-limitations when in possession.

More specifically, the attacking side can only ever be tackled six times by the opposition before they must turn over possession, and this creates a faster and more free-flowing game that arguably boasts a larger audience of casual fans.

To this end, there are no rucks or mauls in Rugby League either, with the attacking side simply retaining possession by the rolling the ball back to a teammate using their foot following a tackle.

These rules place a greater emphasis on quick ball movement and the fluid movement of backs, as sides only have a limited time to reach the goal line and cannot kick for territory before the sixth tackle during an attack.

Breaking Down the 3 Major Types of Bet

Understanding these rules is central to your ability to analyse games in both codes, which in turn can help to inform your betting strategy and individual selections.

It’s particularly important in the case of Rugby Union, however, which has a more complicated set of rules than Rugby League and can be quite difficult for beginners to follow.

Fortunately, these nuances don’t necessarily impact on the types of wagers available to you as a punter. In fact, there are three main bets that you can lay down on Rugby games, and these can be described as follows:

The ‘Win’ Bet

Experienced sports bettors will be more than familiar with the ‘win’ bet, which requires punters to wager on the team that they think will win a particular match.

Essentially, this means selecting one of two potential outcomes (excluding the rare occurrence of a draw) and backing this at the odds provided by your chosen bookmaker.

You’ll make this selection based largely on the analysis of form and team news, while reviewing the live odds and the probability of a specific outcome to determine the overall value proposition of a bet.

This is where your knowledge of the sport comes into play, and this type of wager remains unchanged regardless of which code of rugby you’re betting on.

Handicap Betting 

Handicap betting is another popular and commonplace wager, and one that’s used regularly in sports like football and tennis.

Handicap betting has been designed to create additional value for punters, in instances where there are perceived mismatches with a clear favourite. By placing a negative handicap on the favoured side, you’ll lengthen the odds on offer without overly compromising your chances of winning.

The key is to set the right level of handicap, and this is a little more complex in rugby than it is in sports such as football. This is due to the points scoring system used in both codes of rugby, so you’ll need to analyse the form and performance data of the competing sides before establishing the value of the handicap.

Your approach will vary between rugby league and rugby union, however, as the latter tend to feature slightly lower scoring games and tighter winning margins.

Remember, an extra point is awarded for tries and penalty in Rugby Union, whereas drop goals are worth two more points in this code.


The ‘totals’ bet is a little more synonymous with rugby, and it requires punters to wager on the total number of points scored in a particular match.

This is not as complex as it may sound, as it’s bookmakers who actually determine the totals figure before asking their punters to wager on whether or not the number of points scored will exceed or fall beneath this number.

The odds associated with totals betting are typically favourable, as despite the simplicity of the wager the points systems deployed by each code make it hard to predict scores.

Once again, the key is to analyse each selection and a number of core data sets, including the average points scored per game by the competing sides. You should also consider the respective strength of each defence, as this information should help you to determine the probable score and the value provided by the totals bet.

The Last Word – Remembering a Few Universal Sports Betting Rules

With an understanding of both rugby codes and the types of wager available, you should be able to analyse games and the value provided by odds to make informed selections.

However, there are a few universal sports betting rules that you should consider when wagering on rugby, including the need to avoid emotional betting. You should refrain from backing a side, simply because you support them, for example, unless you’re a casual bettor who just wants to enhance the experience of watching your favourite team.

If you want to make money, however, each of your betting selections should be based on the careful analysis of selected data sets and an understanding of the real-time factors that impact on matches.

Chasing losses is another example of emotional betting, as this often encourages people to increase their average stake based on securing a specific return. This can be extremely counterintuitive, as you should always evaluate each bet on its own individual merits and calculate your stake accordingly.

On a final note, it’s important to manage your bankroll carefully as a sports bettor. Whether you only intend to bet on rugby or a number of different sports, you’ll need to manage your capital carefully and develop a strategy that enables you to spread this across multiple wagers.

To help achieve this, start by establishing a relatively modest individual betting unit. This can then be increased according to the odds on offer and your potential return, as this helps you to achieve the best possible value for your money.

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