Damian Flint is the Club Sports and Intramurals Coordinator at The College at Brockport, State University of New York. His Rugby League career included stints in the Queensland Cup of Australia with the Logan City Scorpions (now Souths Logan) and the Ipswich Jets. He finished his career playing collegiate Rugby Union in America’s northeast, representing The College at Brockport and the Northeast All-Stars. Damian was also an ARN All-American in 2008.
In this, his second editorial, he examines the three versions of rugby football to determine which one is the best fit for American TV.
An increase in media coverage this year of Rugby League and Rugby Union has sparked a debate over which code is best suited for television, and therefore more likely to attract interest from the American sporting community.
The development of College 7’s in Rugby Union combined with USA’s participation at the Rugby World Cup have been driving factors behind the promotion of the sport in America.
Rugby League, on the other hand, also hit the screen on American televisions courtesy of a deal struck by media giant FOX Sports with the assistance of Russell Crowe, co-owner of the South Sydney Rabittohs in the National Rugby League of Australia.
The deal resulted in all three matches of the State of Origin series between Queensland and New South Wales being televised, along with the NRL Grand final between the New Zealand Warriors and eventual premiers Manly Warringah Sea Eagles.
So how do these matches shape up against each other? What are the key elements likely to entice supporters in the future?
College 7’s - The speed and expansive style of play that exists makes it an attractive sport for spectators and potential broadcasting networks. The space available, combined with the speed of the players makes for an entertaining game featuring exciting runs and long range tries. Predominately attack driven, the winning team is typically the side that scores the most tries as tries do tend to flow frequently in the seven-a-side game.
*Dartmouth University scored six tries to two in their win over rivals Army; in the 2011 men’s College 7’s final. Only one conversion (by Army) was made.
Rugby Union - The 15-a-side game has made improvements over recent years in an attempt to be a more attractive sport to onlookers. However, as demonstrated during the Rugby Union World Cup Final, the game’s ability to provide blockbusting tackles, dynamic runs and exhilarating tries on a regular basis tends to be one of its pitfalls. The World Cup final between New Zealand and France was won as a result of penalty kicks as both teams scored a try apiece. The one-point margin (8-7 to New Zealand) came about through a penalty goal by the All Blacks with the French converting their one and only try. While these statistics may reveal what is regarded as a close, high standard game of Rugby Union, the high speed, full throttle, action packed matchup that the American mainstream sporting culture enjoys, tends to be missing.
*According to rugby website ESPNscrum
during the World Cup Final there were 59 kicks in general play, only 3 line breaks, and a mere 202 total tackles made between the two sides.
Rugby League - Demonstrating an accumulation of both products, Rugby League displays the attacking skills enjoyed in the 7’s game of Union, and adds to it by providing full contact, body to body collisions, worthy of any NFL contest. Furthermore, the rules and structure of the game ensures players place a greater emphasis on achieving what is widely regarded as being the goal of the sport - scoring tries. While the two point penalty goal is a necessary feature, players tend to acknowledge the importance of a try and therefore less emphasis is placed on penalty kicks during a match. What makes it such a worthy commodity is the defensive element which provides another dimension of excitement and entertainment to what’s already being seen in the other two alternatives.
Judging by the statistics taken from the NRL Grand Final, it’s easy to see why it’s such an exciting prospect.
*According to the NRL
website, this year’s National Rugby League Grand Final produced 6 tries, 7 line breaks and 683 tackles (481 more than Union) between both sides.
Truth in Numbers
Strengthening the argument that Rugby League is a better fit for television; the following comparison is made.
As you can see Rugby League has more to offer in terms of entertainment value. More line breaks and tries makes for a game that has plenty of attacking capability.
A significantly smaller amount of penalties ensures there are fewer stoppages in the game, which makes it easier for viewers to follow and stay tuned in. A smaller emphasis on kicking in general play allows for players to spend more time with the ball demonstrating their skills, and after all that’s what fans like to see!