One of the biggest mistakes that we see people making when betting on rugby, is that they apply the same strategy to rugby union as they do to rugby league.
There is a lot of crossover between the two, but there are also many differences.
We aren’t going to go through the differences in the rules of each in this article, but we do want to look at how your strategy might differ from one discipline to the other.
Points betting is the most common area that people get confused about. With rugby union you get 5 points for a try compared to 4 in league, and you get 2 points for a conversion compared with 1 in league.
From a betting point of view, you really need to look at the differences in terms of the points spread that the bookmaker offers. For example, a typical points spread in union will be around 35 points, but league will be around 28 or so, which makes a big difference.
For a market like this, it’s tough to really say which market offers the best value as each game is different. However, union offers slightly more fluid gameplay so there are generally more chances to score, and that’s why you often see slightly higher scoring games here.
Given that the number of points on offer is lower from a scoring play in league than union, it means that you often find tighter games in league. At least, the games are often tighter in terms of the score, maybe not in terms of how they pan out.
A key market that this will affect is that of the handicap. Handicaps in league matches are much lower than union fixtures, so this means that the margins for these games are smaller. Just looking through a standard Super League line-up from the UK you will see that handicaps range from as low as just 2 points up to about 14 points, although the latter is 2nd vs 10th, so they are really in different classes.
However, you compare that with union and it’s very rare to see handicaps as low as two for any games. You will find when the top sides play the bottom sides that somewhere around the 14 to 18 mark is pretty common. The biggest difference here has to be in the mid sector, with the average handicap being about 20% higher overall.
There is lot more money staked on rugby union than rugby league for most bookmakers. League is a sport that is predominately played in the North, with only a handful of teams from much further south than Manchester.
Union on the other hand is played throughout the whole country, which means there is a bigger catchment area and greater interest, so more people are looking to bet on it. To put that into context, Rugby League attracts on average just over 8,000 spectators per game, and union attracts just over 14,000 per game.
There is a similar pattern when it comes to betting on the sport as well. Most people are looking to bet on union rather than league, which makes it a more competitive marketplace.
If you are wanting to bet on betting exchanges, then there is no doubt that liquidity numbers will be lower with league. In fact, for markets outside of match betting liquidity would be what we would describe as very low.
Low liquidity isn’t always a bad thing though. It can mean bigger discrepancies in price, which means that it’s sometimes easier to get value from betting on league over union. This will change almost from game to game, but there are plenty of punters who make good money betting on league and state that union is a much tougher place to find value given its size.
Both of the leagues have times where they are dominated by just a few teams. The Super League in its current form has only ever had 4 different teams win it; Leeds, St Helens, Wigan and Bradford. They are all multiple winners as well. Even though the leagues in the two different variations of the sport haven’t always included the same number of teams, they both currently have 12 a piece.
Union is a little more competitive with 9 different teams winning the league in total. They have had periods, like League, where one team has dominated, and in fact, Saracens are dominating at the moment with 4 league wins over the last 5 years.
What’s good about both leagues in the UK at least, is that there are salary caps in place. This limits the big teams from overspending in an attempt to keep things competitive.
Picking one discipline is pretty tough as they have a lot of similarities from a betting perspective. A better comparison might be from top to bottom. In Super League Widnes finished bottom with just 3 wins, whereas Newcastle were bottom in Union with 6 wins from the same number of games.
But you would have to say that League is able to offer more value than that of union from leagues around the world. It’s just not as well covered, especially for UK-facing bookmakers, which means there is more margin for error, and in turn, more ways that you can exploit value as a punter.
Does strategy differ?
This is one area that is going to differ in a lot of ways because the two games contrast when you start to break them down for betting purposes. The likes of match betting and simple markets like that are very similar in that you need to research team form, starting line up, weather conditions, and so on.
The differences start to crop up for markets like winning margins and 5-way double results, that are really popular with rugby league betting. You need to tailor your research and strategy to work really well with both formats, and what works on one might not work on the other.
For example, if you were betting on something like the over/under on total points for each game, you need to look to teams or players that are going to change the game at some point and generally be really aggressive going forward within union. With league, you need to search out physical teams and also teams that have a good kicker given that territory is such a huge part of their game.
No substitute for real knowledge
Regardless of which you think offers the most value, the best type of rugby for you to bet on is the one that you know the most about. It should be the discipline that you follow most enthusiastically and the one that you enjoy being part of, which is a key element lots of people lose when betting.
If you are totally new to both, then pick one and become the best you can be for that version of the game.
Once you start to submerge yourself into either sport, you will become a more efficient bettor guaranteed, and then you can even switch disciplines and apply the same sort of diligence that you used to learn the first for the other.