What are the most popular rugby leagues around the world?


The exhilarating nature of the game of rugby has ensured its global popularity. Rugby is one of the most entertaining sports for all the unexpected turns the game may take. It’s a thrilling spectacle because the game is physically demanding and fast-paced. Rugby has millions of fans worldwide because of its popularity at the school, town, and provincial club levels. The sport is even included in the Olympic Games and is watched by dedicated fans worldwide. 

Rugby is governed by World Rugby, with national federations overseeing the sport in individual countries. Furthermore, national leagues’ investments have made rugby more competitive and exciting to watch. This article will examine the top rugby leagues from around the world and the top rugby-playing countries. 

What is Rugby League?


Rugby League is a contact sport developed in England in the nineteenth century. It is now popular in many different parts of the world. Rugby League differs from rugby union regarding regulations, playing styles, and leagues. Rugby League was developed in Britain, Australia, and New Zealand between 1895 and 1908 as a separate league from the Rugby Football Unions. The Northern Rugby Football Union was the first to form in 1895; it was a breakaway group from England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU). At first, both teams played by the same set of rules. However, the Northern Union quickly began changing the game to make it simpler and faster. In 

In Australia and New Zealand, rebellious groups from RFU-affiliated unions also formed their own “rugby football leagues.” They adopted Northern Union regulations in 1907 and 1908. The Northern Union formally became the Rugby Football League in 1922, leading to the eventual name of “rugby league” football for the entire sport.

The most noticeable distinction between rugby league and rugby union is the six-tackle rule, which states that if a team makes six tackles on the ball, they must hand it over to the other team. Because of this, rugby league is a more fast-paced game that places greater emphasis on attacking play and less on the set pieces of rugby union, such as the scrum and the line-out. Eight forwards and five backs make up a team’s 13-man roster in rugby league. The game aims to ground the ball over the opposing team’s try line to earn points. Drop goals and penalty kicks are additional methods of scoring. Several countries have professional rugby leagues, such as Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) and the United Kingdom’s Super League. Since the Rugby League World Cup, which features teams from all over the world, is held every four years, the sport also has a global fan base.

Most Popular Rugby Leagues Around the World

More than 70 countries around the world host regular rugby league competitions. Among these competitive countries includes Australia, England, France, and New Zealand, all field professional teams, while the rest, including Papua New Guinea and Wales, play at a semi-professional or amateur level. The LeagueLeague currently ranks 45 national teams, with 32 other teams being recognized but unranked. Australia, England, New Zealand, and Tonga are the best rugby league nations. 

Moreover, the Rugby League World Cup is the top league for international rugby league competitions.  As the rugby league evolved with time and becomes more inclusive, the Men’s, Women’s, and Wheelchair divisions are already held at Rugby League World Cup in England in October and November 2022. There are 16 participating teams in the sport. In contrast, this article will cover only the five most considered popular among the LeagueLeague of rugby sports.

1. National Rugby League (NRL)


The NRL is Australia’s premier professional rugby league competition and a major financial and cultural force. The NRL is a club competition for rugby league teams in Australia and New Zealand, featuring teams from New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, and New Zealand. NRL was established because of the merger between the Australian Rugby League (ARL) and the Super League in 1998. The National Rugby League season runs from March to October in Australia and New Zealand. The minor premiership is given to the team that finishes in first place after 24 games. The top eight teams from the regular season then compete in a best-of-three championship series. One of Australia’s most watched sporting events is the NRL Grand Final, where the season’s champion is decided. The Super League champions represent the LeagueLeague in the World Club Challenge. 

The National Rugby League (NRL) is distinct from other rugby league competitions worldwide due to several regulations and features exclusive to the NRL. The National Rugby League, for instance, implements a salary cap to ensure that no other club can dominate the competition because of its financial resources. The National Rugby League also uses a video referee system to help officials make better calls on the field. The National Rugby League (NRL) is a rugby league competition widely regarded as the most physically demanding in the world. Multimillion-dollar media deals, sponsorships, and gear sales contribute to the League’sLeague’s general profitability and popularity, which benefits the teams and players.

2. Super League

The Super League is an annual continental competition featuring the best players from Europe’s domestic divisions. The Super League is England and France’s premier professional rugby league competition. It began in 1996 as a separate tournament from the Rugby Football League (RFL). It has since risen to the top of the international rugby league scene. Each of the 12 teams in the Super League plays with each other twice during the regular season, for a total of 29 games. For the Grand Final, played at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, the top five clubs from the regular season advance to the playoffs.

The teams from the Super League and lower levels are eligible to compete in the Challenge Cup, which is a knockout tournament that is held annually. The Challenge Cup final is a significant event in the rugby Super League held annually at Wembley Stadium in London. Like the National Rugby League, the Super League is widely regarded as one of the most thrilling and competitive rugby league tournaments globally. The most notable super league superstars are Sonny Bill Williams, Sam Burgess, and James Graham, making the rugby playing field undeniably exciting. The Super League is one major factor contributing to the growth and popularity of rugby league across Europe and beyond.

3. State of Origin


The State of Origin is an annual rugby league series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons. Since its inception in 1980, the State of Origin series has become one of the most prestigious rugby league tournaments globally. The State of Origin series, sometimes called “Australian sport’s greatest rivalry,” is considered one of the country’s best athletic events, drawing massive television audiences and selling out stadiums for every game. It is often considered the pinnacle of rugby league, even compared to international tournaments. Fans and players alike are looking forward to this series because of the intense competition between the two clubs. Each team’s roster is made up entirely of natives of the respective state: the Queensland squad has only players from Queensland. In contrast, the New South Wales team has only players who are natives of that state. 

Two interstate games under the old selection rules and one “State of Origin” game were played in 1980 and 1981, respectively. For the State of Origin shield, rugby league teams compete in a best-of-three series in the middle of the season. This tradition began in 1982. Overall, series outcomes were generally even in the early years. Still, between 2006 and 2017, Queensland dominated, winning 11 of 12 series and a record eight in a row. The players in the State of Origin matches are notorious for their fierce competitiveness and willingness to risk injury to bring pride and honor to their state. Famous tries, bone-crushing tackles, and exciting comebacks are expected in these matches, making it one of the most popular in rugby league history.

4. Betfred Championship 

The Betfred Championship is United Kingdom’s second-highest professional rugby league competition, next to the Super League. The Betfred Championship is the second-tier competition for professional rugby league clubs, run by the Rugby Football League. It features 14 teams from England and France competing against one another throughout 27 rounds, with the best five teams advancing to the postseason. The LeagueLeague was originally called Rugby Football League Championship and was renamed to Betfred Championship after the UK bookmaker Betfred took over as title sponsor in 2018. 

The Betfred Championship is a stepping stone to the Super League. Several former Super League clubs, such as the London Broncos, Leigh Centurions, and Bradford Bulls, are among the teams fighting for the title. The Betfred Championship attracts many of the world’s best players and coaching staff because of its intense competition. It serves as a vital stage for the growth of rugby league in the United Kingdom and France. It is watched by rugby league enthusiasts all around the globe.

5. Rugby League World Cup 


The Rugby League World Cup is an international tournament where the best national men’s rugby league teams compete every four years. The International Rugby League organized this tournament, which debuted in 1954 as France’s inaugural Rugby Football World Cup. There have been several changes in format, tournament size, and frequency since its inception. The trophy is called the Paul Barrière Trophy in honor of the former president of the French Rugby League during the 1940s and 1950s. Australia, Great Britain, and New Zealand are the only three countries ever to win the tournament. Except for the first World Cup in 1954, when they finished third—an unexpected result given that bookmakers had made Australia heavy favorites—Australia has reached every World Cup final.

Following a year’s postponement because of the Covid 19 pandemic, England hosted the final World Cup in 2022. France will host the World Cup again in 2025. National teams from all over the world compete in the Rugby League World Cup, an international tournament. It is the international championship for rugby league and takes place every four years. Since its inception in 1954, the Rugby League World Cup has grown to become one of the sport’s most prominent events. Teams from numerous countries compete to determine who has the finest rugby league squad in the world. These countries include Australia, New Zealand, England, France, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Fiji, and Tonga.

The Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) hosts this annual tournament, the specifics of which change each year. In 2017, Australia triumphed over New Zealand and South Africa to claim the Rugby League World Champions title. Massive television audiences tune in to watch the Rugby League World Cup every year, especially in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. It is a big rugby league event that gives athletes a chance to shine on the world stage. Rugby league has flourished thanks mainly to this competition, which has increased the sport’s visibility and attracted new followers to many countries worldwide.


Millions of people around the world participate in and enjoy watching rugby league. To showcase the top players and teams of the different leagues worldwide, the sport hosts several leagues that draw big crowds. As one of the world’s most prestigious rugby league tournaments, the NRL features the most significant players and teams from Australia and New Zealand. While the Super League is the highest level of professional rugby league in England and France and is widely regarded for its rigorous competition and devoted fan base. One of the biggest rivalries in Australian sports is the yearly State of Origin series of rugby league matches between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues.

There is no higher level of international rugby league than the Rugby League World Cup, which comprises teams from all over the world. The competition has been crucial to the growth of rugby league in many places across the globe by giving players a chance to demonstrate their talents on an international stage. As interest and investment in rugby league rise, we’ll see even more thrilling competitions and exceptional players emerge in the years to come.