Cardiff Metropolitan University
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The 'convergence of the twain': A notational analysis of northern hemisphere rugby league and rugby union football 1988-2002

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posted on 2022-10-17, 13:24 authored by Simon John Eaves


The principal aim of this study was to create longitudinal profiles (1988-2002) for the games of rugby union and

rugby league football in order to identify whether changes in time, offence, defence and game action variables,

and positional and game performance indicators were a reflection that the two codes of rugby were 'converging'.

Anecdotal evidence had suggested that due to certain administrative developments within this time frame many

facets of the two games were becoming similar, thereby spawning the notion of a future single, unified game of

'rugby'. This thesis presents the first empirical and objective assessment of whether such convergence has


The data for this study were extracted from 48 video-taped recordings of First Grade rugby league and

International rugby union in the Northern hemisphere over the specified time frame. The matches were

identifiable by Era (pre-/post-professional) and Period (1988-92, 1993-95, 1997-99 and2000-02). Key aspects of

play or performance were distinguished via game models and expert opinion and were scrutinised via a series of

specifically designed and validated hand notation systems. Initial analysis considered (and established) the

reliability of these systems, thereafter parametric and non-parametric inferential statistical teohniques were

employed to identify Era and Period effects within each Code, with the additional analyses to consider the effects

of Game Result and Game Quarter Outcomes.

The findings from these analyses, particulaily the observed increase in ball in play time, changes at the ruck,

maul, and lineout, and alterations in defence patterns of play, have provided a strong argument that the two Codes

underwent a discernable degree of convergence over the years being considered. It was concluded that the

introduction of professional playing status (rugby union), the summer playing season (rugby league), and law

changes were likely causes of the two games being now similar in many respects. Although additional analyses

should be encouraged to corroborate the present findings, the case for the development of a single Code of rugby

can now be made.



  • School of Sport and Health Sciences

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD

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