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A true hybrid: One rugby code to rule them all

Mark Campbell Roar Guru

By Mark Campbell, Mark Campbell is a Roar Guru


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?

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    The Crowd Says (105)

    • November 15th 2017 @ 2:48am
      ScottD said | November 15th 2017 @ 2:48am | ! Report

      Hardley something that serious fans of either code give a s**t about and I doubt the AB’s or Kangaroos do either.
      Having played both at senior level I can’t see the point of the debate. And the proposal for a hybrid test is about money not rugby so Tew was right to call it for what it is.

    • November 15th 2017 @ 4:29am
      Phill said | November 15th 2017 @ 4:29am | ! Report


      Union don’t care , League don’t care.

      Only a handful of people and a carrot of 50 million bucks.

      Have both sports remain separate and keep the code wars alive-always good for a laugh.

      • November 15th 2017 @ 10:36am
        Jacko said | November 15th 2017 @ 10:36am | ! Report

        And i think we all know where that carrot was plucked from

        • November 15th 2017 @ 6:08pm
          Justin Kearney said | November 15th 2017 @ 6:08pm | ! Report

          Let me guess. Your imaginary nephew has 50 million dollars?

          • November 17th 2017 @ 12:48pm
            Jacko said | November 17th 2017 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

            Haha 3 inches long and only ever get just in……I guess you have an imaginary 4 inches eh

    • November 15th 2017 @ 6:35am
      Milan said | November 15th 2017 @ 6:35am | ! Report

      What better way to keep the code wars alive than have this match.

      Think of the build up, the verbals, the banter.

      Thrusting or Barrett?
      Slater or Smith?
      Inglis or SBW

      It would be phenomenal

      • November 15th 2017 @ 9:39am
        RandyM said | November 15th 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report


        gee i hope thats an autocorrect error..

        • November 15th 2017 @ 5:45pm
          Milan said | November 15th 2017 @ 5:45pm | ! Report

          Haha yes mate


    • November 15th 2017 @ 7:17am
      Taurangaboy said | November 15th 2017 @ 7:17am | ! Report

      Some good ideas here Mark. I’m dreaming of the day when a super mogul, Packer-like, joins the two codes and we see all the fantastic footy players out there together. The split only occurred so working men could get paid for playing and could play on Sundays. Time to get back together.

      • November 15th 2017 @ 10:50am
        PJ said | November 15th 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

        Why would anybody be interested in joining the codes? You do realise that outside of western Sydney and Queensland there is not one country on the face of the planet that is worried about the Union/League rivalry. This is an Australian only debate. Union is far an away the most popular Rugby code on the planet, League is the most popular in Queensland & NSW. Let’s just leave it at that.

        • November 15th 2017 @ 11:39am
          Fiji said | November 15th 2017 @ 11:39am | ! Report

          Not true PJ, and you know it.

        • November 15th 2017 @ 1:20pm
          Flea said | November 15th 2017 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

          And PNG, Cook Islands, Serbia and Lebanon.

        • November 15th 2017 @ 2:09pm
          Jacko said | November 15th 2017 @ 2:09pm | ! Report

          Very true PJ. Aus league wants this so it is valid around the world. Union is already valid around the world and Aus have a very good side which is well known all around the world

          • November 15th 2017 @ 2:33pm
            potatojuice said | November 15th 2017 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

            All Blacks and Wallabies already play November test matches in front of sell out crowds of greater than 60 000 in Cardiff, Edinburgh, Dublin, Paris, London and Rome. Heck, even Japan played Wales in Cardiff with 70 000 in attendance, league needs this more than Union by jumping on the All Blacks global brand.

            • November 15th 2017 @ 3:07pm
              Fred said | November 15th 2017 @ 3:07pm | ! Report

              If the majority of examples are all from the British Isles, it is hardly evidence of the All Blacks being a ‘global brand’. Can they pack out stadiums in Mumbai? Jakarta? Tehran? Moscow? Beijing? Rio? Berlin? Cairo? Lagos? Washington? Mexico City?

              • November 15th 2017 @ 3:23pm
                potatojuice said | November 15th 2017 @ 3:23pm | ! Report

                All Blacks have packed out stadiums in Hong Kong, Buenos Aires (Argentina), Milan (Italy), Marseilles (France), Tokyo (Japan) and Chicago (US). Heck, the New Zealand Maori even sold out Vancouver two weeks ago.

                I mean, there must be a reason one of the biggest multinational insurance corporations are backing the team as the main sponsors.

                The All Blacks brand is worth more than US$200 million this year.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 3:23pm
                rugby365 said | November 15th 2017 @ 3:23pm | ! Report

                All blacks sold out in Chicago, Tokyo, Hong Kong and if they were to play in those other nations no doubt the would be able to. They are the current international team of the year beating out Barcelona, Golden State Warriors, Great Britian davis cup team, Mercede F1, and the womans usa football team who won their world cup. Safe to say they are a world brand.

                And the kangroos won the anzac test

              • November 15th 2017 @ 3:33pm
                potatojuice said | November 15th 2017 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

                All Blacks were named the 2016 Laureus World Sports Award for Team of the Year.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 3:38pm
                Fred said | November 15th 2017 @ 3:38pm | ! Report

                Yes All Blacks jerseys are everywhere in Tehran, Jakarta and Mumbai lol.

                They played in Hong Kong to British and Australasian expats. They played in Chicago in front of a crowd of Irish supporters who would have turned up to see Ireland in any sport.

                They are not a ‘global brand’, they are well-known in the British Isles, France, South Africa and the South Pacific.

                Not suggesting they need to be ‘global’ to be a great team – they are well and truly dominant – but to speak of them being a ‘global brand’ (god I hate marketing language) on par with Manchester United or the LA Lakers is hyperbole.’

              • November 15th 2017 @ 7:09pm
                mikeT said | November 15th 2017 @ 7:09pm | ! Report

                Dont worry guys Fred is still living in some dreamland where the kangaroos are comparable in popularity, global appeal and awareness to the all blacks. Everyone else outside of fred and a couple others in Australia know the truth… That is no one knows who the kangaroos r.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 3:38pm
                alexandriablues said | November 15th 2017 @ 3:38pm | ! Report

                Fred, with some basic Googling you’ll be pleased to hear the All Blacks have sold out stadiums in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris, Toulouse, (insert major South African city), Rome, Milan, Apia, Singapore, Vancouver, Buenos Aires, Rosario and Chicago.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 3:40pm
                alexandriablues said | November 15th 2017 @ 3:40pm | ! Report

                They played in Chicago in front of a crowd of Irish supporters who would have turned up to see Ireland in any sport.

                The All Blacks played the US national Rugby Union team at the same venue, Soldier Field in Chicago, in 2016 with a sell out crowd.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 3:45pm
                alexandriablues said | November 15th 2017 @ 3:45pm | ! Report

                350 000 Germans viewers for the All Blacks vs Argentina in a pool game at the 2015 Rugby World Cup suggests they would have no problem selling out stadiums in Munich should they play Germany in the future.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 3:46pm
                alexandriablues said | November 15th 2017 @ 3:46pm | ! Report

                Yes All Blacks jerseys are everywhere in Tehran, Jakarta and Mumbai lol.

                I’d argue that it would take some difficulty finding kids wearing LA Lakers jerseys in Tehran, Jakarta and Mumbai. Especially having visited the latter two cities on multiple occasions.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 3:57pm
                Fred said | November 15th 2017 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

                I don’t doubt they’ve sold out Paris and Toulouse, as the sport is big in France. I don’t doubt they’ve sold out in South Africa. The two Italian examples aren’t surprising either.

                I don’t doubt they played to dececent crowds of British/Australasian expat crowds in medium sized stadiums in Hong Kong and Singapore.

                I’m not sure that selling out Apia is a great achievement, as so did the Fijian Rugby League team.

                Well done for attracting a big crowd to see the US team get flogged. Though I doubt that will win over many new fans in the US.

                The fact remains – to use marketing-speak:

                Manchester United is a global brand. The All Blacks are not.

                Again, that’s not a bad thing – there is something soulless about Manchester United and similar teams.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 4:11pm
                potatojuice said | November 15th 2017 @ 4:11pm | ! Report

                I don’t doubt they played to dececent crowds of British/Australasian expat crowds in medium sized stadiums in Hong Kong and Singapore.

                There were plenty of locals in attendance at both games, having attended the Hong Kong fixture myself. The test matches in Tokyo and Buenos Aires excess of 95% locals as well.

                “Well done for attracting a big crowd to see the US team get flogged. Though I doubt that will win over many new fans in the US.”

                The US team getting “flogged” hasn’t done any harm whatsoever on rapidly growing playing numbers in the US especially in high school and colleges nationwide, no harm on the US team’s crowds this year and no harm in developing a professional league next season.

                Manchester United is a global brand. The All Blacks are not.

                The All Blacks are now worth more than $200 million US dollars.

                The highly prestigious Laureus World Sports Award for Team of the Year in 2016 was awarded to the All Blacks, with five nominations in the previous ten years. Previous winners including similar global brands such as Manchester United, Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 4:34pm
                Fred said | November 15th 2017 @ 4:34pm | ! Report

                “The All Blacks are worth $200 million”. That sums it up right there. Your average run of the mill European soccer team is worth billions.

              • November 15th 2017 @ 6:27pm
                Jacko said | November 15th 2017 @ 6:27pm | ! Report

                The kangaroos got less than 10000 to a HOME TEST……..And half the tickets were given away…Such a world wide brand eh Fred. The ABs just TODAY sold out a 60,00 person stadium in France and it wasnt evem a testy match…it was the reggie reserves….

              • November 16th 2017 @ 12:32am
                scottd said | November 16th 2017 @ 12:32am | ! Report

                No Fred, I travel the world in my job and can confirm they are a global brand

              • November 16th 2017 @ 4:27am
                Phill said | November 16th 2017 @ 4:27am | ! Report

                Fred is correct

                Look at the opening sentence.

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

                With that “The Kangaroos” are far more of a Global Brand than the “exceptional All blacks!”

                Question where did the Kangaroo’s end up in the AFL?

            • November 15th 2017 @ 5:48pm
              Milan said | November 15th 2017 @ 5:48pm | ! Report

              There is only one true world game and that is football my good friend so don’t try and say that union is relevant worldwide cos it isn’t. It truly isn’t so keep dreaming on with your hyperbole

              • November 15th 2017 @ 6:32pm
                Jacko said | November 15th 2017 @ 6:32pm | ! Report

                Why is there only 1 true world game??? Motor racing is a sport and its done in most countries ….Horse racing is pretty much in EVERY country….Fortunately for Rugby Union its also a world wide sport with over 100 countries involved. No one says Soccer isnt the no 1 footy code but no 2 is also massive Milan

              • November 16th 2017 @ 11:53am
                Maestro said | November 16th 2017 @ 11:53am | ! Report

                Fred is RL warrior who hitched on to the world game to make a stupid point. He still believes the RLWC is fair dinkum contest between citizens of the respective countries And lets not mention Suttons reffing the second half of Tonga game – who gets Tonga this weekend??.

        • November 17th 2017 @ 6:08pm
          Tingo Tango said | November 17th 2017 @ 6:08pm | ! Report

          So why is the NRL the biggest club rugby competition in the world and the Brisbane Broncos the biggest of either code?

      • November 17th 2017 @ 12:52am
        Chris said | November 17th 2017 @ 12:52am | ! Report


    • November 15th 2017 @ 7:59am
      Rob9 said | November 15th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

      Every couple of years this topic pops up and it goes away about as quickly as comes up. Mainly because of the pointlessness of the concept.

      I find it laughable that a fan of either the Kangaroos or the All Blacks wouldn’t enjoy their World Cup winning celebratory beers as much because they’d still think there’s a summit ahead of them in the form of another world champion team in a completely different sport. I’ve never come across such a beast until today.

      Let’s move on from this. The Kangaroos are the best at what they do and vice versa for the All Blacks. Again, as they’re completely different sports I’m happy to leave it there (as I believe the overwhelming majority of fans of each are which is why the idea tends to fizz out pretty fast).

      Even as someone who loves both sports, I have absolutely zero interest. Neither has anything further to prove in their respective sports after winning their world cups and suggesting otherwise is disrespectful to both codes. Some sort of freak show that attempts to capture the best of both wont change that. It’s nothing more than a quick grab for cash that the bean counters will again work out isn’t there on mass and the idea will be gone for another 4 or 5 years by the end of the week.

      • November 15th 2017 @ 8:51am
        Not so super said | November 15th 2017 @ 8:51am | ! Report

        Times 2 for me Rob

    • November 15th 2017 @ 8:38am
      Womblat said | November 15th 2017 @ 8:38am | ! Report

      The only common concept now is the word “rugby”. They are way too evolved down their own roads to ever combine in any way. The biggest difference is the social one, or the perceived one at least. Private school vs public, white collar vs blue, beer vs chardonnay, ties vs polo shirts, Winne Blues vs cigars. That’s an unfair generalisation but it’s real enough.

      And neither would be interested in any hybrid. Game over before kickoff.