A true hybrid: One rugby code to rule them all

Mark Campbell Roar Pro

By , Mark Campbell is a Roar Pro


105 Have your say

    The greatest rugby league team on the planet is the Kangaroos. The most exceptional rugby union team on Earth is the All Blacks.

    Both sides may lose from time to time, and may not win every World Cup in their respective codes, yet they’re both the best at what they do.

    Unfortunately, neither team can claim to be the best rugby team.

    When this debate comes up the usual comments are made: you can’t compare the two codes.

    This thinking is wrong. Yes, there are differences, but the basics are the same.

    Once you get past that thinking, you have to put up with the bias that is evident in both sports. The arrogance of union “that’s not real rugby” or comments from league fans “watching union is like watching paint dry”.

    But the facts remain that both teams play a version of rugby, both are the best in their respective codes, but neither team can claim to be the best if they have not beaten the other.

    You don’t climb the mountain K2 and claim to have climbed the highest mountain in the world.

    Apparently, the New Zealand Rugby Union have been contacted by Hybrid Rugby about a game against the Kangaroos just after the 2019 World Cup.

    However, NZRU chairman Steve Tew has reportedly killed the notion, which likely has something to do with the nature of the hybrid match.

    It consists of playing league in one half and union in the other, with a clock dictating how long each team has with the ball. This notion seems ridiculous.

    If a hybrid game is to take place, then it truly needs to be a hybrid.

    A true hybrid match
    Firstly, blend the field markings, with the 40-metre line instead of union’s ten. Also, remove league’s 30-metre line, keep the 22 of union, and maintain league’s ten metres form the tryline, while including the five-metre markings for scrums.

    On the sidelines, keep union’s five and 15-metre line spread for lineouts.

    Secondly, keep union’s contested scrums, line-outs (with two to six players involved) their blood bin, head knocks and shoulder-charge regulations.

    When it comes to kicking, include the union kick-off, keep league’s line dropout, but a kick that goes out on the full in general play – regardless of location on the field – would be taken back to the position of the kick, where a turnover and a rugby league play the ball would take place.

    A kick-off or line dropout going out on the full would result in a penalty. A 40-20 would become a 40-22 with a line-out to follow.

    Most importantly, I would keep league’s scoring system, which is neater and fairer – three points for a drop goal and penalty are a bit much.

    I would also only have 13 players on the field, allowing for seven substitutions, which opens up space on the ground that you don’t get during a union game.

    Both codes could adopt these rules, however the tackle and ruck are where both games differ. So do you go with the unlimited ruck and maul of union or the limited play the ball of league?

    I suggest only six tackles, as in league, but when a player is tackled, he must release the ball backward – just as in union. The defending team (apart from two markers) are to retreat five metres (it’s last legs in union and ten metres in league).

    The attacking team can still protect the ball as they do in union, but only the defending tacklers can make a play for the ball. At present in union, all defenders who join the ruck area can challenge for the ball as long as they don’t come in from the side.

    Under these guidelines, if a player was not involved in the tackle, then they could move to the marker position or retreat the five metres, but they could not make a play for the ball.

    Don’t worry; I know you are scratching your heads. I also know that other rules would need to be sorted out. I most certainly wouldn’t keep the law that saw Sonny Bill Williams sin-binned, and a penalty try awarded to France. That was downright crazy.

    No doubt, both sets of fans are pulling their hair out at my suggestions so far. I get it. If you’re a mad-passionate league fan who hates union or vice versa, then you don’t want anything to do with the other.

    That thinking is fine, though that takes me back to my earlier point. If you win the World Cup in your code, you will always know that there is still a champion team out there ready to challenge you.

    Until the day the Kangaroos meet the All Blacks in a serious hybrid match, fans will always wonder who the best is. Wouldn’t it be good if there were only o form of rugby, which pitted the best against each other?