The average Canadian might not know the difference between a scrum and try, but when it comes to rugby betting in Canada, the trend is only up.
With a large population from other commonwealth countries like Australia and the UK, where rugby has legions of fans, and increased visibility from the popular rugby sevens, to TSN airing all of Toronto’s games in Major League Rugby, the sport’s popularity in Ontario is rising.
With single-game wagering set to replace the standard parlays from provincial lottery corporations, rugby betting is about to rise, as well. Whether you know the difference between rugby union, rugby league and rugby sevens, rugby betting might be worth checking out, as just a little research could put your knowledge level ahead of local oddsmakers.
Here’s how to navigate your way through rugby betting in Canada.
Main types of rugby games
For the most part, the rugby that you see in pro circuits and international competitions around the world is one of the following:
- Rugby union
- Rugby league
Both are played on a pitch that looks a lot like a football field. There’s a goal line and goal area like an endzone at each end. Plus, H-shaped goalposts like uprights. The object of both rugby union or rugby league is to move the ball up the field and score more points than the other team. Teams score by carrying the ball into the goal area and placing it on the field or kicking it through the goalposts. Matches are 80 minutes long, with two halves.
Players run with the ball and make lateral passes in an effort to move it forward. They can also kick it and run it down. The opposing team can tackle ball carriers, rip at the ball or recover kicked balls and move it the other way. However, there are slight rule differences between rugby union and rugby league.
Rugby union teams use 15 players. A team scores a five-point try when a player runs the ball across the goal line and places it down on the field. A two-point conversion is when someone kicks the ball through the goalposts after a try. A three-point drop goal is when someone drop kicks the ball through the goalposts during play. And finally, a three-point penalty kick is when the referees award a penalty kick for a rules infraction, and that kick results in the ball going through the goalposts.
When the ball goes out of bounds on the sidelines, there’s a throw-in process called a line-out. The teams line up seven players and try to recover the ball in the air after it’s thrown in on a straight line. Rules infractions that lead to penalty kicks include things like head tackling. Minor infractions like forward passes result in a scrum. Scrums feature the teams lining up eight players with interlocked arms and shoulders. The ball is fed into the middle, and the teams fight for possession on the ground.
Rugby league teams, meanwhile, use 13 players on a smaller field. The scoring is the same, except a try is worth just four points, conversions and penalty kicks two points, and a field goal or drop goal just one point. Plus, there’s a scrum when the ball goes out of bounds on the sidelines rather than a line-out.
Best rugby leagues and competitions to bet on
Here are the top pro leagues and international competitions for rugby. As can be seen, there’s plenty of opportunities for rugby union betting or getting your rugby league bets down:
- Major League Rugby (rugby union): 12-team North American pro rugby league with 11 teams from the US and one from Toronto.
- Gallagher Premiership Rugby (rugby union): 12-team top division UK pro rugby league.
- The National Rugby League (rugby league): 16-team top division Australian and New Zealand rugby league.
- Top 14 (rugby union): 14-team top division pro rugby league in France.
- Betfred Super League (rugby league): 12-team international rugby league pro club competition with eleven teams from England and one from France.
- Rugby World Cup (rugby union): Contested every four years among the top 12 international teams from the previous World Cup and eight others from regional qualifying tournaments. The next one is scheduled for 2023 in France.
- Six Nations Championship (rugby union): Annual international competition involving teams from England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales.
- Rugby League World Cup (rugby league): International rugby league tournament held every two to eight years and featuring national teams from Rugby League International Federation countries. The 2021 Rugby League World Cup will take place in England from Oct. 23 to Nov. 27 and feature 16 teams.
What are the standard rugby bets?
Betting on rugby is a lot like betting in Ontario on other team sports. Basic rugby match wagers to be found at rugby betting sites in Ontario include the following:
- Moneylines: Three-way moneyline betting where you pick either team to win or the match to end in a draw.
- Spreads: Pick a team to win with a sportsbook-set spread factored into the final score.
- Three-way spreads: Spread betting with a draw option.
- Alternative two-way handicaps: Alternative spread betting.
- Totals: Bet on whether both teams will combine to score more or less than a line that the sportsbook sets.
- Winning margins/correct: Pick a team to win by a specific number of points or range of points. The more specific, the better the odds, including correct score betting.
- Props: Wager on props like first try scorer at moneyline odds.
- Futures: Bet on a team to win a league or international competition at moneyline odds.
The rules of rugby betting
Check with your sportsbook of choice before betting, but most employ the following common rugby betting rules:
- Sportsbooks will settle rugby bets after the full 80 minutes are in the books, plus any stoppage time.
- All bets are off and returned when a venue or opponent changes.
- Conversions do not count on player props.
Why bet on rugby over other sports?
Rugby’s lower level of popularity in Canada makes the betting markets more desirable. Do some research on rugby, and you might be able to find an edge on Canadian sportsbooks. The fact is that there are very few Canadian rugby experts. Become one, and you might make money betting on this sport.
Also, top flight rugby is a mostly international sport. That means betting markets are live in the off-hours for other sports, and betting on rugby doesn’t have to interfere with your betting on other sports.
Betting on rugby sevens
Rugby sevens is a seven-a-side, seven-minute-half variant of rugby union. World Rugby is the governing body for the sport and hosts tournaments and events in Africa, Asia, Europe, the South Pacific, North America and South America. It’s a Commonwealth Games and Summer Olympics sport and subject of the annual World Rugby Sevens Series.
The World Rugby Sevens Series is an annual series of 10 international rugby sevens tournaments running from November through May. Each tournament features 16 teams. Teams compete for the World Rugby Series title by collecting points based on finishing position in each. Canada has a team and hosts a tournament.
Betting on rugby’s two World Cups
The 2021 Rugby League World Cup will be held in England from Oct. 23 through Nov. 27 and feature 16 teams:
- Cook Islands
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
Australia is the two-time defending champion.
The 2023 Rugby World Cup (rugby union) will take place in France from Sept. 8 through Oct. 21 and consist of 20 teams. This will include the top 12 from the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Another eight teams will qualify through regional competitions, cross-regional playoffs and a repechage tournament in November 2022.
The Canadian National Rugby Union Team has played in every Rugby World Cup, finishing winless in the group stage in 2019. So far, these are the 12 teams we know will be competing for the 2023 Rugby World Cup:
- South Africa (defending champions)
- New Zealand
Rugby betting tips
- Rugby league or union: Make sure you know whether you’re betting on a rugby league or rugby union match. All scoring methods are worth fewer points in rugby league, making it a lower scoring version of the sport.
- Springboks and All Blacks above all: Bet on the South Africa Springboks or New Zealand All Blacks to win most international competitions they enter. These are the two best international teams in the sport. Both share the record as three-time World Cup winners. South Africa won the World Cup in 1995, 2007 and most recently in 2019. New Zealand won the World cup in 1987, 2011 and 2015.
- Take advantage of the spread: Rugby can be a high-scoring game, and the gap between good teams and great ones can be huge. Betting with a spread gives you the chance to get a better price on big favourites delivering decent payouts when moneylines don’t.
How can I watch rugby in Canada?
TSN is the exclusive Canadian media partner for the Toronto Arrows, Canada’s only Major League Rugby team. The team started its 2021 season in Georgia due to border restrictions, but the partnership means all 16 regular season matches, and any post-season matches, will air on TSN platforms, including its national television feeds, TSN.ca and the TSN app.
DAZN has the Canadian broadcast rights to international competitions like the Six Nations, allowing you to stream matches over the internet. In the past, TSN has been Canada’s home for the Rugby World Cup.
What is Major League Rugby?
Major League Rugby is North America’s professional rugby union league. It’s typically scheduled to run from March through August. It features 12 teams: 11 from the US and one from Toronto.
The inaugural season was in 2018. The Seattle Seawolves won the league’s first two championships, and the third season was canceled. The regular season consists of each team playing 16 matches over 18 weeks. The playoffs see the top two teams in each of the Western and Eastern conferences face off for places in the Major League Rugby Final.
What is the National Rugby League?
The National Rugby League is the professional rugby league in Australia and New Zealand. The season runs from March through October, and the league consists of 16 teams.
The regular season finishes up in September and is followed by the Finals Series, where the top eight teams in the league face one another, with spots in the Grand Final on the line. The NRL Grand Final is one of the most popular sporting events in that part of the world. It’s pretty much Australia and New Zealand’s Super Bowl and is held annually on the first Sunday in October.
The Sydney Roosters won back-to-back NRL finals in 2018 and 2019. However, the Melbourne Storm won it in 2020, claiming a fourth title.
Who are the All Blacks?
The All Blacks are New Zealand’s international rugby team, and one of the best teams in the sport, having won the World Cup in 1987, 2011 and 2015.
What is the haka?
The haka is a ceremonial dance in Māori culture. Māori are indigenous people of New Zealand, and the All Blacks perform a haka before international rugby matches.
Who is the greatest rugby player of all time?
Many people consider New Zealander Jonah Lomu the greatest rugby union player of all time. He was the youngest ever All Black at 19 years old and was inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 2007 and IRB Hall of Fame in 2011. Lomu was a huge draw wherever he played both professionally and internationally for New Zealand. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with a serious kidney disorder in 1995, retired from professional rugby in 2007 and died in 2015.
Who are the Six Nations in rugby?
Rugby’s six nations are England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. International teams from each compete in the annual Six Nations Championship.
What’s the difference between regular rugby and rugby sevens?
Rugby union is played with 15 players a side, and rugby league with 13. Both have matches that are 80 minutes long, with two 40-minute halves. Rugby sevens has seven players to a side with two seven-minute halves.
What is handicap betting in rugby?
Handicap betting in rugby is spread betting, where you bet on teams to win with a spread or handicap factoring into the final score.
What does XH mean in rugby betting?
XH is shorthand in rugby betting representing a bet on a home team to win.
Is rugby better than football?
It’s a personal choice, really, and although the games have some similarities, they are much different, making them hard to compare. Forward passing and play-by-play stoppages make NFL, NCAA and CFL football a lot different from rugby.
What are the rugby positions?
There are no quarterbacks, wide receivers, safeties or linebackers in rugby. Instead there are loosehead and tighthead props, hookers, lock and second rows, flankers, wing forwards, number eights, scrum-halfs, fly-halfs and wings.