Rugby is one of the many games on the up in Canada right now. We have a Rugby Union team that has shown promise, we have a Rugby Sevens team that has secured some big wins, and we even have a Rugby League team playing in England.
This is a great time for rugby in Canada and in this guide we will tell you all you need to follow this sport as a Canadian, including how to buy tickets, how to follow Canadian teams, what the rules are, what the differences between rugby codes are, and where you can get your gear cheap.
Before we discuss rugby in Canada and tell you how to get tickets to the big events, you need to understand the different variations of the game of rugby, known as “codes”. This can seem complicated, but the reasons behind the existence of these different codes are actually very simple.
Basically, many years ago the game of rugby was created and played at an amateur level, but as it spread, rules changed and no one could agree on what the official rules were. People in the south of England saw it as a game played for fun, something for the weekends. It was played by university students and people without major responsibilities. But it was different in the north, as they were working men who needed to work.
The game in the north became professional so that the players could be paid, and the one in the south it remained amateur. This caused a shift that continued to widen. Today, even though the game in the north, Rugby League, was the first to turn professional, it is the lesser known and lesser played of rugby codes.
All games of rugby use a spherical ball and posts that look like bigger, longer versions of American football posts. They all tackle, run, hold and score in the same way and they also allow drop goals, penalties and conversions. But they differ in many ways.
Ruby Union Rules
Rugby union is a more popular and more brutal game than League, but it’s also slower and can be more frustrating for the player as a result. Every time a tackle occurs, the player with the ball goes to ground and the other players try to steal it while the team with possession defend it. If they defend successful, they can keep the ball and continue. Only when they fail to defend this tackle, known as the “ruck” or “breakdown”, or when they are penalized, will the ball be turned over.
There are 15 players per team, 5 points are awarded for a try, 3 points are awarded for a penalty and drop goal, and 2 are given for a conversion. Rugby is one of the top three sports in England, France, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. It is also popular in several other countries and even Canada have a team, as discussed further on in this guide.
There are 40 minutes per half and 2 halves per game.
Rugby League Rules
Rugby league is popular throughout the north of England, mainly in Yorkshire and Lancashire. It is also very popular in parts of Australia and New Zealand and there are also national teams in many other countries, but it is not considered to be the biggest sport in any of them. There is a world cup, but it’s not as popular as the Union world cup.
The domestic game is smaller too, with the Super League and NRL being the biggest competitions. These are contested mainly in England and Australia respectively, but the Super League is also accessible by several teams from other countries, including the Catalan Dragons from France and the Toronto Wolfpack from Canada.
Rugby league is a faster game with less stoppages because the scrum is not contested and there are no line-outs. There are 13 players per team and 40 minutes per half. There are 4 points for a try, 2 for a conversion, 2 for a penalty, and 1 for a drop goal. The main difference, however, is in the way the tackles occur.
Each team is allowed to be tackled 6 times per possession, with the goal of getting as high up the field as possible in that time. When they use all 6, they are forced to hand the ball over. Typically, when they get to the final tackle they kick the ball and then contest it in the air in order to create a last ditch attempt at scoring.
Rugby Sevens Rules
Sevens is a quicker game of Rugby Union. It uses the same rules as Union, but there is a “7” theme throughout. There are 7 players per team and 7 minutes per half. They still play on the same sized pitch though, and that creates the extra space which is what makes the game more open and quicker.
Despite the drastically reduced time and player numbers, rugby sevens games have the same average score as Rugby Union games.
Rugby is a growing sport in Canada and you can follow it domestically and internationally. Take a look at the options for rugby in Canada:
Canada Rugby Union
There are over 26,000 senior players signed up to play Rugby Union in Canada, as well as many more junior players. That adds up to a lot of teams at domestic level.
Canada is a tier-two rugby nation, which means they are at a high level, but not quite the highest. But a lot of money is being invested in the game in Canada and World Rugby is also keen to expand the sport here, which is why we’re seeing it grow considerably.
The Canadian National Team is typically ranked between 20th and 25th in the world and has appeared at every World Cup to date. This means that they have a far greater status in rugby than Canada have in soccer and any other sports. We also ranked as highly as 11th in 2011.
To put that into perspective, Italy and the United States, both vastly growing rugby nations, are 14th and 15th respectively at the time of writing.
Canada Rugby League
There is a governing body called Canada Rugby League, there is a national team and there is also a domestic team currently playing in the second tier of English rugby. All of this bodes well for Rugby League in Canada, but there is a long way to go.
The national team is known as the Wolverines and has a top 20 ranking.
Canada Rugby Sevens
The best Canadian team is the Sevens team, without a doubt. They are a formidable force and always have a good chance at going deep in Rugby Sevens competitions, even if they never quite get over the line.
Canada Women’s Rugby
Canada’s women’s rugby teams are also growing and have made their mark on the Rugby Sevens game in the last few years. Women’s rugby on the whole is growing, but it’s still semi-pro, with the players working other jobs and often not getting paid to play.
How to Watch Rugby in Canada
There are some streaming services available online that allow you to watch rugby, but we are not happy to recommend these because they aren’t always legal and they often fill your computer or device with malware.
If you can get access to the BBC, as many in North America now can, then you can watch some of the biggest rugby games. The BBC have live games from the Six Nations and the Rugby Union World Cup. They also show games from the Rugby League Challenge Cup. In fact, at the time of writing we just finished watching a live game with the Toronto Wolfpack vs top Super League opposition.
If you can’t stream the BBC or SkySports from the UK, look for New Zealand, South Africa or Australia sports channels. They love the sport and show games all the time.
How to Watch Domestic Rugby
If you want to watch some local teams play then you will need to go along to the games themselves. These are not played in big grounds and they are not played to a high level. But only by supporting them can you help them to grow and to attain such a level.
We have discussed the league systems and governing bodies in Canada to give you an idea of where to start, just scroll down to find that information and start offering your support. Every little helps, and one person really can make a difference if everyone has the same attitude as them. Who knows, in a few years time we could see Canada growing into a world-beating national team, or we could see a Canadian domestic team showing up for the Super Rugby competition.
Cheap Rugby Balls, Cleats and More in Canada
There are an increasing number of Canadian sports retailers now selling rugby gear. But if you can’t find them at your local store there are plenty of other options.
Rugby cleats are similar to soccer and football cleats and if you can’t find them in your local sports store you can just opt for those alternatives. You should also check our deals page on Amazon CA to see if they have anything available. Just make sure the boots are durable and tough, able to withstand being stepped on without breaking bones.
There are no alternatives for the balls, but these are widely available. Check with SportsExpert, Amazon and other sporting discount retailers we have on this site.
Altitude Sports and even Amazon (again) have some official rugby shirts with the names of your favourite teams. The best option, however, may be to check out eBay Canada. This is especially true if you are looking for a shirt from a European, Australian or New Zealand team as these big sports stores tend to charge a lot for imports like that whereas you might be able to find a small-time dealer on eBay selling it cheap.
Rugby Events In Canada
Checkout these resources if you want to learn more about Canadian rugby and get yourself involved.
This is the governing body for the sport of rugby in Ontario. They can help you to setup a rugby club or find one that is suited for you. There are multi-tiered leagues where teams like Toronto Scottish and Barrie RFC play.
Another provincial governing body and one that traces its roots back nearly 150 years. They oversee the Quebec Cup and other top domestic competitions.
The governing body oversees competitions such as the Alberta Cup and the Alberta Women’s Premier. They have sub unions such as Calgary Rugby Union and Edmonton Rugby Union.
Cheap Tickets to Global Rugby Events
Rugby is not an expensive game to follow if you play your cards right. Unlike many boxing and soccer tournaments that can cost you upwards of $100 a ticket and $2,000 an event, rugby is very reasonably priced because they don’t sell as many tickets and they need more support.
You can check our our pages on Expedia, Hotels.com and Booking.com to learn how to get cheap flights and hotels nearby the event. Just make sure you book early (tournaments are announced a long time in advance) to get them cheap. As for the tournaments you should focus on, checkout these events for Canadian rugby fans.
The Six Nations
This is a cracking tournament to watch. It is an international event that takes place every year in Jan/Feb, with each team playing each other once. Each team will play at home at least a couple times, but because of the popularity of the game in Wales, Ireland and England, you will have a hard chance getting tickets there. Scotland may be easier and it should be cheaper to get tickets (fly in to Glasgow or Edinburgh and see the sights while there) but the Scottish team has a greater following now as they have improved a lot, and that could increase the demand.
The best ones are France and Italy. The former are losing support and play at a huge stadium, while the latter are a much smaller team and there are usually tickets on the go. Look for a France or Italy home game against England or Ireland and you’ll be in for a treat.
Rugby Union World Cup
The Rugby World Cup takes place every 4 years and is next due in 2019, when it will be staged in Japan. They are not a huge rugby nation but it’s a long trek, so Canadian fans might want to sit it out and watch TV instead.
France will host in 2023 though and that could be the perfect chance for Canadian fans to grab some bargain tickets. The games are always played in several stadiums across the country, so there are always opportunities to grab some tickets. Just make sure you get in early if you want to get tickets to the final or to the opening game.
Rugby League World Cup
The Rugby League World Cup is typically held every 4 years, but it hasn’t been as consistent as other competitions in this regard. It is not as widely televised as the Rugby Union World Cup, nor do the tickets go as quickly, so there is always a chance to grab some tickets.
Also, because there are 14 teams in the competition and Canada are in the top 20, there is every chance that they will qualify, so you might get a chance to see them in action. The next Rugby League World Cup will take place in England in 2011 and in 2025 it will take place in Canada and the United States!
There is a long wait, but how exciting is that?! There will be a total of 31 matches played across both countries, with early reports suggesting that Canadian games will be split between cities like Toronto and Vancouver, with the games likely being held in MLS or CFL stadiums.
Rugby Sevens Vancouver
Rugby Sevens events are held many times a year and occur over the course of a weekend. Each team plays many times over the weekend and there are group stages, knockout stages and consolidation prizes over each weekend, as well as a league to tally all weekend results.
There are always tickets available, they are very cheap, and this is a great way to spend a weekend. The events are held all over, but the best ones are in Dubai and right here in Vancouver.
Super Rugby is a global competition and it’s one of the best in the world. The rugby played here is to such a high level that you won’t see anything like it elsewhere. It’s fast, it’s high scoring, and it’s brilliant from the first minute to the last.
It has a very unique setup in that it is a domestic competition played in a home and away format, but it involves many different countries. There are teams from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Japan and Argentina. For many years it was just New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, but after showing a lot of interest and increasing their status on the world stage, a team from Argentina (the Jaguares) and a team from Japan (the Sunwolves) were also allowed to compete. In years to come, we could see a Canadian team there, but for now, you can watch these games in any of those countries.
So, see the sights in Sydney, Tokyo, Buenos Aires or Auckland and catch a game of Super Rugby while you are there. Tickets are more widely available in Argentina and Japan than in the other countries, but they play in huge stadiums and there are usually at least a few tickets going spare right up until the match day.