I’ve never got the union / league argument. I’ve never understood how someone that is involved in rugby as either a player, supporter, official, coach, whatever, can say that they don’t appreciate any part of either code. Yes, I understand that some people find that kicking for position in Union is ‘boring’. Yes, I understand that some people think League is just a game of ‘British Bulldogs’. I suspect that some may not appreciate the tactical reasons of kicking in Union and why field position means so much and I suspect that some don’t understand why ‘spotting’ an opposition player and putting a set on him in League can make or break him during that match.
They are two very different, but at the same time, very similar versions of the same game and there are intriguing aspects in both. Surely you have to applaud the same skills shown in both codes? You can’t wince at a massive hit in League and not do the same when it happens in Union? And you can’t cheer at an offload and break in Union and not do the same in League? Maybe it’s naive of me to think that people should be open-minded enough to value the skills in both, but I can admire a long pot in snooker without wanting to play it or calling the sport ‘boring’…
Maybe it’s because I played both codes, although I ended up playing senior rugby in Union. But, whatever it was, I think there are more similarities between the codes now than there ever has been and throw in the upsurge of 7’s and I think there’s a middle ground for both sets of players to play.
Here in Halifax we have a population of around 90 000. And we have 6 amateur Rugby Union clubs. Sheffield has a population of around 800 000 and has 4. Now throw in that Halifax has 9 amateur Rugby League clubs – yes, 9. Sheffield has 2. We have so many players divided between clubs and codes in Halifax that some excellent players get missed or underdeveloped or they move out of the area to clubs higher in the leagues simply because the spread of players amongst teams in Halifax is too thin.
What I find is that with the onset of summer rugby kids now play union in the winter and then play league in the summer. This has translated into senior players starting to do the same and, hopefully, some barriers may be getting broken down and the age-old League/Union argument may start to become a myth. Although I have no doubt there will always be the purists that will never succumb to the lure of the dark side (I’ll leave you to decide which code that is…)
So this leaves me thinking – is there room for a combination of the two? Could we develop a code where Scrums can be fed but line-outs are kept? What about sets of 6 tackles but where you can steal the ball in the tackle? And would a dead ball be played from the 22m or the 20m???
I’d welcome your thoughts on the matter!