How to Bet on Rugby! Learn Everything about Rugby Betting

By 03/07/2017 RUGBY


Rugby is a popular sport that is quickly making its name in the betting world, offering many opportunities for punters to place a bet and make a profit. As a comparatively high-scoring game, rugby betting differs from other sports as there is usually a greater deal of markets available. From straight-match bets to handicap markets and First Scoring Play, we’ll guide you through the rules and bet options and become your go-to guide for rugby betting.


The Origins of Rugby

Rugby history stems all the way back to 1823, where it is believed the actions of William Webb Ellis sparked the concept of what is now one of the nation’s favourite sports. During a football match at Rugby School, Webb Ellis ran towards the goal with the ball in his hands. Although there is speculation as to whether this actually happened, Webb Ellis is still highly regarded as the inventor, so much so that the winner of the Rugby Union World Cup wins the acclaimed Webb Ellis trophy.

Throughout the early 19th century, it is thought that many schools up and down the country were playing at least a version of football where handling the ball was allowed. The original set of rules for Rugby Football, as it was known back then, was produced in 1845. As Blackheath Club became the first team to move from the Football Association over to rugby, it generated the founding of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) in 1871.

By 1895 rugby had split into two factions over payment disagreements, where teams based in the north formed their own code titled the ‘Northern Union’ and split from the Rugby Football Union. As it became apparent that there were two codes of rugby, spectators needed to distinguish the two. As the Northern Union code included the ‘league championship’, the teams were often referred to as those who ‘play in the league’, hence rugby league. Those who remained affiliated to the RFU were known as playing ‘rugby union’.


Rugby League and Rugby Union Rules

The predominant betting events in rugby are usually the major rugby union tournaments  such as the World Cup, the rugby Championships and the Six Nations. You’ll find you have a lot more betting options for these events. However, in between these tournaments you will also find rugby betting available in the Rugby League  code as well.


Rugby League

  • Each team has 13 active players and 10 available substitutions
  • To win, you outscore the opposing team
  • The match consists of two halves of 40 minutes, 80 minutes in total.
  • Points are awarded for tries (4 points), conversions (2 points), penalty kicks (2 points), and drop goals (1 point)
  • The six-tackle rule means each team can only have the ball for a period of 6 plays.
  • A scrum, traditionally consisting of 6 people, is used to re-start play after knock-ons or forward passes.


Rugby Union

  • Each team has 15 active players and 7 available substitutions
  • To win the match you outscore the opposing team
  • The match consists of two halves of 40 minutes, 80 minutes in total
  • Points are awarded for tries (5 points), conversions (2 points), penalty kicks (3 points), and drop goals (3 points)
  • A scrum, usually consisting of 8 players, can be used to restart play. After knock-ons or forward passes. If the ball goes out of play, a line out is used to resume play, and in all other restart events a free kick is taken.

In both codes, the main objective is to score tries by advancing the ball down the length of the pitch. For the try to be given the player must be considered to be in control of the ball, applying a downward pressure.  Conversions are then given to the team who made the try after the try is given. A try is ‘converted’ when a player kicks a dead ball in between the opponent’s goalposts and above the crossbar.

If the opposing team commits an offence then a penalty will be awarded. To win points from the penalty, the player will need to kick the dead ball between the opposition goal post, similar to a conversion. However, a penalty is taken from the spot where the offence happened.  Drop goals are taken during play when a player kicks the ball over the crossbar of the opposition goalpost. The points will only be awarded if the ball hits the ground before it is kicked.

Rugby Betting Rules

As with all sports betting, you’ll need to check the bookmaker’s individual rules. All bets are settled during the 80-minute time frame of the match, which usually includes additional or extra time. In the event of game abandonment, usually all bets will be settled void and refunded. You will need to check whether your bet still stands for the re-arranged date in the event of a pre-game postponement.  Additionally, it is worth noting that penalty tries do not count in the First Try Scorer market.

Common Rugby Bets

The most common rugby bets apply to both codes. Usually, the bigger the game, the more betting options there will be. So for the World Cup or Six Nations tournaments you’ll probably find more available bets. However the more popular bets will be available for most matches.


Before diving in to the bet options, it’s important to understand the rules of the handicap. Handicap betting affects the way that odds are presented, so a firm understanding of this type of betting is key in order to be able to interpret those odds and place effective handicap bets.

When bookies offer the handicap it is best thought of as levelling the playing field in terms of the teams involved.  When there is an overwhelming favourite, particularly in points-based sports such as rugby, a handicap market is presented to make it a more even contest.

Handicap betting works by giving one selection a virtual deficit to overcome at the start of the match. You may also find that another selection in the same market, generally the underdog, will receive a virtual start. If your chosen selections score is greater than it’s opponents after the handicap has been applied, your chosen selection is deemed the winner.

For example, if the England rugby team are favourites to beat Scotland then a +point advantage would be given to Scotland (in this case, let’s say +7). If you bet on Scotland +7 to win, and England won the game by 6 or fewer points then you have won the bet in the handicap market.

If the teams are deemed to have equal chances, you may come across the term ‘scr’ or ‘scratch’ in replacement of a handicap being applied. This means no handicaps are applied to final scores and that the winner of the market will be the outright winner of that market.

Match Betting

Match OddsYou place a simple bet on which team will win the match, with a draw option given also. In the event of a draw in 2-way market, your bet will be void. A handicap market is usually presented to make bets more appealing. TotalsThis is a 2-way overs and unders market whereby bets are placed on how many points there will be in a match. First Scoring PlayFor this market, you are predicting the first scoring play, either penalty, try or drop goal. For some bets, such as this one, the punter can gain a slight advantage by waiting to see who starts the match with the kick-off. Double Result BetRugby is a physically demanding game where it is not uncommon to see the score line change drastically from the first to the second half. Technically a double bet, the first part is predicting who will be ahead at half time, then predicting the outcome at full time.
Highest Scoring HalfHere you can bet on a 3-way market in which you decide which half will contain the highest number of points- first half, second half or tie. You can also place on the team to score the highest number of points in either half of the match. First try Scorer/TeamIn this market you can bet on which team will score the first try. At larger odds you can also name the player to do so. Winning MarginBets are placed on how much one team will beat the opponent at full time. This is a popular bet when there is a strong favourite between the two teams. Although harder to predict, it can potentially be a very lucrative market. Number of TriesThis is a 2-way market in which you predict the number of tries within the full 80 minutes. The bookmaker will set a line/number of tries and you can decide either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ based on the amount stated. You can also have a ‘total team tries’ market.

Depending on the bookmaker, you can often find a number of other markets available. These often include the more self-explanatory ‘team to score first’, ‘to win both halves’ and ‘last try scorer’.

Tournament Betting

Outright Winner – A popular bet for most sports, this is placing a bet on a team to win a tournament on championship, each-way betting is usually always available. This market depends on the variation in the tournament, so there may be a short priced favourite or a very tightly bunched group at the head of the market. Common selections are ‘win only’, although many may bet on a bigger priced selection each way simply for the place payout if that team reaches the final or finishes placed in a league competition.

Top Try Scorer-  This is whereby a bet is placed on the player to score the most tries of the tournament or championship. The result is often hard to predict as there are many factors to consider i.e. player and team form, injuries, suspensions etc.

Spread Betting

With rugby spread betting you are predicting the outcome of an event but the pay-out is based on the accuracy of the bookmaker, rather than a simple win/lose scenario. Essentially, the more you are right, the more you win.

Time of First TrySimply predict how long it will take either team to score a try. The maximum selection here is 80 minutes. By making this selection you would be predicting a zero-try match. Team PerformancesHere you are betting on the overall team performance in a match. There are set points awarded for wins, draws, tries, conversions, penalties, and drop goals. Points will be deducted from the total for missed penalties and drop goals, as well as for sin bins and red cards. SupremacyThis market involves predicting how much the selected team dominates the opposition. Your bet is based on how many more points one team will get over their opponents.

Betting Strategy and Tips

Understand the markets

Betting on rugby  is, in a lot of ways, similar to betting on most sports.   With a wide breadth of knowledge about how to bet on sports and plenty of time taken conducting research, you can analyse the odds and look for value in the markets presented.  However, some markets, even though based on the same principal, can differ greatly for rugby. For example, the ‘first try scorer’ option in rugby is not the same as the ‘first goalscorer’ option in football. This is because you generally favour only one or two strikers in football, whereas a rugby team holds many more player options including many attacking backs as well as the forward power. It is then a lot harder to call the ‘first try scorer’.

Consider the selections usual type of play

Understanding the type of rugby a team tends to play puts you at an advantage for alternative markets. If a team is known for their defensive kicking strategy or forward oriented game, then tries may come few and far between. With this knowledge, it might be worth having a punt at the ‘first scoring play’ market.

A game of two halves

The points scored in a rugby match can differ drastically between the first half and fulltime. It may be a team’s strategy to start softly in the first 40 mins to wear the opposition out, then come out strong for the second. This can create some excellent opportunities in the ‘halftime/full time’ and ‘totals’ markets.

Check the weather

It may seem a bit simple but the weather conditions can play a huge part in the outcome of outdoor pursuits, especially for rugby. Dry conditions tend to lead to fast paced, expansive matches where the backs see a lot of the ball. Conversely, during wet and muddy conditions you’ll see dour, forward dominated encounters. Consider which teams are playing; some are more suited to certain weather conditions. In this instance, be cautious in handicap markets, where teams may have to cover big handicaps in unfavourable conditions.

Rugby Facts & Trivia

 numbers-01 Originally a try was worth 0 points, but instead the player who touched the ball down in the ‘in-goal area’ was allowed to ‘try’ to score a goal, hence the name. Goals were scored by kicking a dead ball over the crossbar and through the posts, converting the try into a goal, a goal being worth 1 point. Nowadays, points are earned for both the try and conversion.
 numbers-02 The first national anthem sung before a rugby match was a spontaneous rendition of the Welsh national anthem, ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’. This happened on the 16th November 1905 just after the New Zealand team performed the Haka. Wales responded by singing their national anthem, where the crowd soon joined them.
 numbers-03 The exact same whistle is used to start off every single opening match of the Rugby World Cup and is named the Gil Evans whistle. It was first used by Welsh referee Gil Evans in 1905 during an England Vs. New Zealand match.
 numbers-04 The highest number of combined points ever scored in a Rugby World Cup match was 162. This came on 4th June 1995 when New Zealand faced Japan, beating them 145-17.
 numbers-05 USA are the reigning Rugby Olympic Champions. They won the title in 1924 during the Paris Olympics, but rugby union has not been included in the Olympics since.  However, the 2016 Rio Olympics marked the debut of Rugby 7s where Fiji beat Great Britain 43-7 in the men’s tournament and Australia beat New Zealand 24-17 in the women’s tournament.