How Popular is Rugby Across the World?

There is a big, and dedicated supporters following of Rugby and is branches out around the world. You can find major tournaments on television and the Rugby League World Cup in 2021 broke records for being the biggest, best, and most inclusive tournament in rugby leagues history.

In the UK every minute of the 2021 World Cup was broadcasted on the BBC, a terrestrial channel, and 1.8 million people tuned in to England’s opening game against Samoa with a huge spike in online betting which often goes hand in hand with sports. As more countries begin to relax their laws and attitudes towards online sports betting, we have seen many more bets placed on rugby matches and tournaments. Punters in countries such as the UK and New Zealand can easily head online to one of the available sportsbooks and place a bet on an upcoming rugby match.

Rugby Fans Worldwide

Rugby has over 405 million fans around the world with more than 70 countries which host regular Rugby League competitions.

Australia, England, New Zealand, and France all have professional teams while the remaining countries often operate at a semi-professional level or amateur.

Where is it Most Popular?

  • Australia and New Zealand

Australia is the home of the National Rugby League (NRL) which is a major financial and cultural force in the country. Whilst rugby struggles behind football in many countries to football, this is not the case here.

Combining teams from Australia and New Zealand, the season runs from March to October each year and came to life after the merge of the Australian Rugby League (ARL) and the Super League back in 1998.

One of the most watched sporting events in the country is the NRL Grand Final where the season’s champion is crowned. 

As well as the NRL Grand Final, the State of Origin series between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues draws huge crowds in Australia. Often dubbed “Australia’s Greatest Sports Rivalry”, this event also attracts huge numbers of viewers to its broadcast.

An intense series between two teams which began in 1980 made up entirely of native players to their respective states. 

It is fiercely competitive as players risk injury with tough tackling and putting their bodies on the line for the team. It is played at an electric speed with famous tries, crunching tackles ad the pride and honour of the state on the line.

  • England and France

The Super League is England and Frances premier professional rugby league competition and has been since its creation in 1996. 

12 of the best teams across the two countries compete for the highest honour in the region at club level, a place in the Grand Final. 

With the Super Leagues creation, the interest has sparked further fans who can now tune in to see the best players from around the world competing in this thrilling and high-speed game.

Over in England, the Betfred Championship is the professional league for the sport behind the Super League.  The top sides from this competition each season will progress into the Super League to compete. 

Some of the best players from around the world, as well as coaches, fight for places on squads in the Betfred Championship as it is broadcasted around the world. The competition is so high that players can prove their elite-status here and go onto represent their century.

Rugby League World Cup

The Rugby League World Cup is the pinnacle of the sport and one in which 16 different countries participate. This is not just for men either, the women’s sport is thriving as well as wheelchair rugby league.

Held every four years, this international tournament see’s the finest players from each country competing at the very highest of levels. 

With their long histories in Rugby League, it will not surprise you to hear that Australia, New Zealand and England are the only three countries to win the Rugby League World Cup so far since its inception in 1954.

The sport has flourished further due to this tournament which has increased its visibility to new fans as well as being branded and marketed very well. It has been able to reach out to supporters in new countries, especially as the format developed and more countries began to compete.

Where is Interest Growing?

  • The Mediterranean and Southern Europe

Rugby leagues history in the Mediterranean goes well back to the 1960s before is really began to pick up in interest this millennium. 

In 2002 Rugby League was brought back to Italy and which ensured the Italian Rugby League was formed in 2008. The league was created, and a domestic championship was played for. Participation has since grown in both the senior and youth levels.


While the big four will continue to dominate for some time, the growth in the game and interest around the world will only help others develop and compete internationally.

Many countries such as Ireland, South Africa and Argentina have all been developing Rugby Union, it gives Rugby League the chance to build on the support for the sport and engage fans in their style of competition. 

Leagues are being developed in European Countries, Pacific Islands as well as in Sri Lanka, which is giving more people the chance to get involved and drive-up participation globally.

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