As one of the oldest contact sports in the world, rugby has had plenty of time to gather a popular following. It has certainly achieved this with recent estimates suggesting there are in the region of 400 million rugby fans worldwide with around 2% to 3% of this figure actively participating in the sport as opposed to just spectating.
When also considering how many people like to gamble on sports, you end up with a lot of overlap between betting and rugby enthusiasts. As a result, the overwhelming majority of bookmakers will gladly take bets on rugby no matter if it is union or league. Although it does not bring them as much money as the likes of football, it is still a major sport that bookmakers offer. According to internal polling for one major UK bookmaker, 41% of their customers ‘love’ or ‘like’ rugby league and 19% ‘love’ or ‘like’ rugby union.
Knowing that there is plenty of demand for rugby betting, the bookies have made it as easy as possible to place bets on the action. Not only this though but many have created plenty of additional betting markets, giving customers real freedom when it comes to wagering their cash. Especially for top international clashes, the choice of different bets on offer can actually be a little overwhelming for the casual gambler. However, with the aid of our helpful rugby betting guide, you can gain a firm grasp of all the terminology and bet types you are likely to come across. Throughout the article we will talk about rugby in general rather than discussing union and league separately. You will find many of the same markets across the pair but typically speaking, union games are likely to feature more variety.
Most Popular Rugby Bets
It might not be innovative or brand new but betting on the match winner has been the most popular type of bet to place on rugby for a long time and we can’t see this changing anytime soon. It makes sense given that the final score is ultimately what matters in a battle between two teams. Nobody is going to go home celebrating that they were the team to score the first try if they end up losing the match!
For those who are completely new to betting, you are likely to be unaware though that there is more than one way of betting on the match winner. Aside from the obvious, you can also back a team to win with a handicap or back them to win by a particular margin of points.
Dipping into these alternative win markets can help you win more money than you would obtain if opting for a straightforward win bet, but with larger odds comes greater risk too so it is always something of a balancing act.
You will find the standard “who is going to win market?” will be called “match odds” at most bookmakers. It is perhaps not the best name but it is always easy to find and is usually the one that will appear as default when heading to the rugby page of any betting website. Other names for it however include 80 minutes or 1X2. In the case of the latter, what it means is either team 1 (the first team written will win), it will be a draw (X) or team two will win (2). Providing the teams are not playing at a neutral venue, the first team listed will be the home side.
In rugby, draws are infrequent occurrences so you will always find this available at a large price. In games between two evenly matched teams, the odds are usually somewhere between 16/1 and 22/1 is normal while but it can go as high as 40/1 or 50/1 if one side is perceived as being miles stronger than the other. As for the win price for either side, this can vary tremendously.
As an extremely general rule, the home side will be the favourite more often than not simply because of home advantage. For a competitive league clash, both teams will be available at close to an even money price (1/1) but when there is an underdog involved the prices can rise, even hitting double figures for example 10/1 or 20/1. In such cases, you will receive next to nothing back for betting on the other team!
Now, here is where things get a tiny bit complicated at first glance. Rather than betting on a team to win, punters have the option to pick a team to win but with a selected handicap applied. Handicaps work in either direction so either you can choose to give a team extra points, or take points from them. At the time of writing, there is an upcoming clash between the British and Irish Lions and Japan. This is a great example as in a standard bet, the Lions provide very little chance to win a decent profit given they are priced at 1/7 to win.
In the main handicap market though, we can get odds of 10/11 on a Lions win with a -13 handicap applied. If you choose this, the Lions would need to win by 14 points or more, as they are effectively having 13 points deducted through the handicap. If you think Japan can run the Lions close though, you can back them to win, at the same odds, but with a +13 handicap. What this means is that the Japanese would begin the game 13-0 up. If the actual match ends up with them losing 10-20, this bet would be a winner as with the handicap applied the score becomes 23-20 to Japan. If you think Japan will lose by exactly 13 points, you do have the ambitious bet of backing a -13 handicap tie as this would level the scores.
What usually happens for rugby betting is that the main handicap market sets a handicap amount that balances the teams out. In this particular instance, bookies generally stuck with 13 or 14 points. For Harlequins versus Exeter Chiefs though, the value dropped to 11 because there was less to separate them in the match odds market. So, just be mindful that there is no standard handicap value and it varies from game to game.
As well as the main handicap market though, many bookmakers also have what is known as alternative handicaps. Here you will find a range of points scores that can be added or subtracted to either team. We have just given a selection of what is available in this case as some bookmakers cover all the possibilities in between the figures listed below. Note that for these the handicaps are always listed as .5 figures rather than whole numbers. This is to remove the option of there being a draw.
|Lions -37.5||9/1||Japan +37.5||1/25|
|Lions -32.5||11/2||Japan +32.5||1/14|
|Lions -27.5||7/2||Japan +27.5||1/7|
|Lions -22.5||23/10||Japan +22.5||1/4|
|Lions -17.5||11/8||Japan +17.5||1/2|
|Lions -12.5||4/5||Japan +12.5||4/5|
|Lions -7.5||4/9||Japan +7.5||6/4|
|Lions -2.5||1/5||Japan +2.5||11/4|
|Lions +2.5||1/12||Japan -2.5||5/1|
|Lions +7.5||1/50||Japan -7.5||10/1|
|Lions +12.5||1/80||Japan -12.5||18/1|
Although similar to handicap betting, the winning margin market provides a slightly different possibility for the eager bettor. Here you will be presented with a range in which a team may win by. In the main winning margin market this is usually either a choice between either a relatively ‘small’ win or a ‘big win’. A small win is usually a range of something like 1-12 points, while a big win might be 13+ points. If this lacks precision, do not fear as many bookmakers will provide additional alternative winning margin selections with narrower margins. It is, for example not unusual to see winning margins of five-point increments, so Lions to win by 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, and so on.
As you can see from the table below, the extra precision required for a winning margin provides much better odds than with handicap betting. If the Lions win by 14 points, a -13 handicap returns just 10/11 but an 11-15 margin of victory would see you treated to 5/1 winnings. This is because if the Lions ended up winning by more than 15, your handicap bet would still be a winner but your margin bet would not.
|Winning Margin||British & Irish Lions||Japan|
To Win to Nil
Now a win to nil bet is not something you want to try your luck with very often as maintaining a clean sheet/shutout for the full 80 minutes is very difficult to manage. It can happen though in cases where one team is much stronger than the other. In 2020, England beat Georgia 40-0 and they also, much more surprisingly, beat Italy 37-0 in a World Cup 2019 warm-up clash.
In even rarer cases, you can find a relatively competitive contest in which both sides struggle to record many points; for example, Widnes Vikings’ 7-0 win over Hull FC. Be aware that sometimes you will only have the option of betting either team to win to nil, rather than specifying a team.
Up to this point, all the markets we have looked at have related to the full-time score but half-time betting is something where a considerable amount of money goes. Bets that solely relate to a half, or have a half element to them are particularly good for sides that do not tend to perform to the same level after the break. Some teams are guilty of starting slow and needing time to warm up. Others, however, often being to decline late on either through inferior fitness and/or a lack of composure.
This is not to be confused with ‘double chance’ which you commonly see with football betting. In the world’s most popular game a double chance bet covers one team to win or draw. In Rugby, however, the double result market requires you to pick the team that is leading at half-time and the team that is leading at full-time. Depending on your bookmaker, this will either mean you have five and/or nine betting options depending on whether or not they include a tie.
The full list of options will be Team A/Team A, Team A/Draw, Team A/Team B, Draw/Team A, Draw/Team B, Draw/Draw, Team B/Team A, Team B/Draw, Team B/Team B. Any selection involving a tie will increase the odds by a huge extent as even scores being level at half-time is not a regular occurrence in rugby. Usually, punters pick this betting option to get better odds, without really increasing the risk much, on the strong favourite. Instead of backing Exeter Cheifs at 1/5 to win, you can get a distinctly better 8/15 on them to be ahead at half-time and full-time.
Half-Time/Full-Time Winning Margin
Should you want a more challenging double result bet, you may find you have the option to bet on both the half-time winning margin and full-time winning margin. This is one combined bet so getting the first-half margin correct but the full-time margin wrong will mean you have los your money. Getting the margin for one half is challenging enough so if you do managed to get two right, the returns can be extremely large.
Sticking with the Exeter game, the lowest price available within the entire market was the Chiefs to win the first half by 1-8 points and then to be ahead by 1-12 by full time. This was available at 9/2 and closely followed by the chiefs to first lead by 1-12 but then by 13+ points ahead by half-time (5/1). There are some wild and wonderful alternatives though such as the Chiefs 1-8/Harlequins 13+ at a whopping 80/1!
Both the markets we have just looked at combine guessing the half-time score AND the full-time score. If you simply want to bet on the half-time outcome though, this is easily done. As with the match odds, it is simply a case of choosing which side will be ahead only this time by the half-time whistle rather than full-time.
What you will find when betting on half-time results is that the gap between the two teams decreases with respect to their odds. Harlequins to win the game are 7/2 but 9/4 for to lead at half-time whereas Exeter Chiefs are 1/5 and 1/3 respectively.
Half-Time Handicaps & Winning Margins
We have already discussed the handicap and winning margins at length so we will not go over the trodden ground too much here. We just wanted to let you know that most bookies offer exactly the same bets but relating to the first half rather than the full game.
So, if you want to bet on team A with a -7 handicap or on them to win the half by a 4-6 point margin, this is easily done. The stated winning margins and handicaps will usually be smaller on the basis that the first half will (usually) see fewer points than the entire match.
To Win Either Half / Both Halves
To win either half and to win both halves are two separate markets but their similarities mean it makes sense to bunch them together For to win both halves, you will either have the option of picking a specific team or it will be a choice of either/neither. Backing ‘either team’ is not the same as placing two double result bets, one on Team A/Team A and the other Team B/Team B. This is because you are only concerned with the number of points scored in the half rather than the team is winning by the end of the half.
A bet on a specified team to win both halves means they must score more points than their opponents in each of the halves, it is not enough to simply be ahead at half time and full time, they need to have outscored the opposition in the second half too.
If this does not make much sense, imagine a situation in which Wales lead Scotland 15-10 at the first half and the full-time score is 23-20. A Wales/Wales bet wins for doubles result but they have not won both halves. The second half in this instance actually ended up 10-8 in favour of the Scots.
To win either half works using exactly the same principle, your selected team just needs to accumulate more points in at least one half of the match. If they end up collecting more points in both, this is fine too as the team is not punished for exceeding the minimum requirement. Sometimes within this market you can bet on yes or no for either team so if you think Scotland will fail to win either half you can put money on this. ‘Fail to win’ was used on purpose here as opposed to lose because a tied half would also be valid in this instance.
Highest Scoring Half
Nice and simple this one, all you need to do is successfully predict the half which sees the highest number of points scored. This a combined total across both teams, rather than relating to one specific side. You do have the option of going for a tie but as an unlikely event, you will tend to find this is priced at odds of 20/1 or even higher. In almost all cases the second half will be priced very slightly lower than the first as typically rugby matches do on average see a few more point scored in the final 40 minute period.
In addition to the half with the most points, it is possible at some sites to bet on the half with the most successful tries. Here the chances of a draw are much higher as there will always be fewer tries in a half than there are points so expect to see the odds drop to around 4/1. This does not however change the second half from being the most likely option. Not only does the latter half see more points in rugby but it (unsurprisingly) sees more tries too.
We have gone from full-time bets to half-time bets but what about bets that related to a specific point scored or try? If you want to dig into this level of detail then the bookies are still happy to take your bets most of the time. Although you rarely find bets on specific players scoring like you would in football, team scoring bets are more widely available.
Team to Score First
Being the first team to register a point can help give you a slight psychological edge early on in a game. You can back the team you think is more likely to receive this boost in the team to score first market. You may however want to wait till you find out which team is getting the ball underway as scoring before a turnover is not an extreme race occurrence. With no realistic prospect whatsoever of any rugby game finishing scoreless, it is a market where you do not have to worry about a tie or void bet.
To Score First Try
For a slightly different bet, you can also try your luck by guessing the scorer of the first try. The premise is the same but here you only care about the first team, or player, to touch down the ball past the try line. Whether or not the conversion is scored afterwards makes no difference. Now here, there is a not outlandish possibility that the game will stay try-less so the danger of that pesky third option returns. ‘No try’ odds vary massively depending on the match but it will always be a long shot.
It is more widely available to pick a team to register the first try but in bigger matches, some bookmakers will allow you to pick the player instead. With 26 (league) or 30 (union) possibilities, odds will usually start from about 6/1 rising to as high as 100/1 for those players that seldom venture too far forward. Most punters will put this as a win only bet but you may have the possibility of going each way too. Each way terms can differ but as standard half of your bet will go on your chosen player to score one of the first three tries, paying out at quarter odds. The other half will go on the player to score first and pay out at the normal price.
Some bookies also let you bet on the player to score the second try or the player to score the first try of the second half. In all cases, if nobody scores a try, your bet will lose as ‘no try scored’ is a betting option among all the list of names. If your player does not feature however or only comes on after the qualifying try, then your bet will be voided.
Score First & Result
If you want to spice up your results bet a little more than you can throw in a first scorer prediction too. The main option for this is score first/half-time/full-time. Taking an example of Toulouse versus La Rochelle, predicted to be an incredibly even match, you can get 3/1 on Toulouse for all three and La Rochelle at 9/4. The more you start mixing the combinations up, the larger the odds become with La Rochelle/Toulouse/La Rochelle the longest shot at odds of 18/1.
There are a few variations of this market such as first scorer and match result or first try scorer and half-time result. They all basically involve some combination of first scorer/try scorer and then either a half-time and/or full-time result.
To Score Last/Last Try
Most scoring bets focus on the first scorer but you can however bet on the final scorer, or try scorer of the game too. Again, this can relate to the team or the individual but in both cases, you will find in almost all cases are the same as with the first scorer. You may, however, have your theories about why one team/player is more likely to score last than first (perhaps they have a habit of it) so this market may sometimes be more persuasive than ‘to score first’.
Race to Points
Rather than a flutter on which team will open the scoring, you can bet on the first team to reach a specific number of points. This number is usually 10 but you may find larger numbers available in addition to this. Most of the time with 10 points, and certainly for anything higher, backing neither team is a third option.
A maximum a team can score with their first ‘score’ comes from a try in both union and league. A union try results in five points and offers a two point conversion while in league you can obtain four points plus a two point conversion. So, this bet does differ to scoring first but the team that does open the scoring will be anywhere between 40% to 70% of the way there to getting to 10 points first.
If you can sense a game being particularly high or low scoring but cannot decide who will end up winning, then the total points market is worth looking into. Here you can just bet on whether or not there will be over or under a certain number of points in the match. If you explore the ‘alternative total match points’ market you will often find there is a huge range of numbers ranging from over 19.5 points to over 75.5 points so you can get extremely tiny and large odds plus everything in between.
If you are after something that is more of a coin flip you should have the option of an odd/even score bet too. This option can be available for either team, or a combined score total. In either case though the odds will most likely be 5/6 for odd and 5/6 for even. You may, at more generous bookies though, enjoy a marginally better 10/11 for each.
Outright Rugby Betting
Another way in which rugby fans like to bet their money is on outright bets. These are longer-term bets that involve people betting on the winner of a particular competition, cup or league as opposed to a single game. Rugby generally has a lot of these outright bets ranging from big international tournaments like the Olympics or Six Nations to domestic leagues like the (English) Premiership or the Super League. You can even get outright odds on some mini-events too such as the State of Origin series, the best-of-three rugby league series involving New South Wales Blues and Queensland Maroons.
For events that are smaller in stature, such as the aforementioned State of Origins, outright betting usually only becomes available close to the start date, a few days or a week perhaps. For the biggest competitions in rugby though, you will have the option of having an early flutter months (if not years) in advance. Several bookmakers offer odds for the Rugby World Cup some two years or more before it kicks off. Bets placed this far ahead of an event are known as ante-post bets.
Although betting this early will not appeal to most, those who do consider it are doing so in order to lock in a better price. If they feel, for example, that South Africa are going to have a superb couple of years prior to the World Cup start then their odds will naturally drop by the time the tournament begins. By backing them now though they can enjoy odds of 5/1 as opposed to settling for odds of, say, 3/1 just before the tournament starts. Ultimately though, very few people will bet so far in advance due to the uncertainty of what will happen during the interim period. Certainly, for our more casual gamblers, a few days or a couple of weeks prior is more than enough.
As well as backing the winner of a particular competition through outright events, you can also find a range of other outright betting markets. For a domestic league such as the NRL, this can include things like a top-four finish, most losses or the top try scorer. For a Lions tour the options differ somewhat, and instead present markets such as total series tries, series correct score and top team try scorer. The number of these additional outright market can vary substantially by bookmaker so it is worth shopping around if you are really into your league/tournament/cup betting.
Rugby Betting In-Play
Live betting, or in-play betting as it is also known, has gone from strength to strength in recent years. Long gone are the days of only having the option to place a bet pre-event and then crossing your fingers hoping for the best. Now, not only can you place bets while the game is ongoing but in many cases you can also cash out a bet too; if the price is right of course!
Virtually all sports can be bet on live and rugby is certainly no exception. For even fairly minor clashes you should find that there is a range of available markets once the ball is launched into play. As a rule though, the bigger the clash, the more markets you will find simply because more people are looking to bet on the action.
One of the reasons live betting is so popular is that you can bet on the action you are seeing with your own eyes. It may be possible to stream some rugby matches via a bookmaker app/website or you may be watching on TV. By actually seeing a contest while betting, you can have a very informed idea of what might happen next. This allows punters to make what we might generously call ‘smarter’ bets because they are based on key match observations rather than things such as form or head-to-head records.
The majority of bettors place in-play bets on their mobile phone, largely because it is something they always have access to. It doesn’t matter where you are, providing you have some signal, you can log into your account and have a flutter on some live action. It is just as easy to place live bets on a laptop or PC though, if you happen to have one with you when a rugby match is underway.
To stand a chance of a hefty payout when betting on rugby, for a single bet you either need to back a huge outsider or you can pick the favourite but in a very challenging market. There is another way though, and this comes courtesy of accumulator bets. Commonly referred to as accas, these involving combining several bets from completely different matches into one much larger wager.
For an acca to be a success and provide you with returns, every single leg of the bet must win. If even just one lets you down you will pocket yourself absolutely nothing other than a hard-luck story. Accas effectively work by rolling over the winnings of one selection to the next bet.
Obviously, it does not quite work out like this if all events occur at the same time but the maths remains the same. To show how this works in practice we have taken a series of actual odds from some NRL (Australia) matches and placed a hypothetical £5 stake. In all but one case we have picked the favourite to win, to help illustrate that it only takes quite sensible bets to create a large-paying accumulator.
|Selection||Stake||Odds of selection||Return Including Rolled Over Stake from Previous Selection|
|Melbourne Storm to beat Sydney Rooster||£5||1/3||£6.67|
|New Zealand Warriors to beat St. George Illawarra Dragons||£6.67||4/6||£11.12|
|Canberra Raiders to beat Gold Coast Titans||£11.12||1/2||£16.68|
|Newcastle Knights to beat North Queensland Cowboys||£16.68||4/6||£27.80|
|Cronulla Sharks to beat Brisbane Broncos||£27.80||9/4||£90.35|
Even with betting on four odds-on favourites plus one (hardly overly ambitious) 9/4 outsider, you have the possibility of turning a mere £5 into £90. This shows the power that accumulator bets have and goes a long way to explaining their popularity. Note that you can create accumulator bets across different markets too, you are not just limited to the match odds.
So, if I wanted to back Melbourne storm with a -8 points handicap and Canberra Raiders to win both halves instead, this is easily done. The only thing you cannot do is add markets from the same game or any two events that are related, for example, Melbourne storm to win a given match and to win the league.
Betting at the Game
There are many people that enjoy watching rugby live inside a stadium. Big international matches often sell out while Premiership Rugby in England usually falls just short of 2m attendees in a normal year. For some, having a bet inside the stadium is all part of the enjoyment as it increases the thrill level that little bit more.
Some rugby grounds have high-street betting shops a few minutes from the stadium where you can slip in pre-game to place a bet or two. Others, however, do not, meaning that you will probably need to place a bet on your smartphone instead. This can be quite a challenge if you are in the middle of a big crowd due to slow internet speeds but for smaller games, you should have next to no issues.
Can You Bet Online Inside a Rugby Stadium?
There is certainly nothing illegal about betting inside the stadium so you are free to place bets before or during the game as you please. Placing a bet immediately as something happens, before the bookmakers have been made aware, is not illegal either although it is not something we recommend. Also known as courtsiding, this very contentious practice is something that the bookies are not fond of, to put it mildly.
If you are clearly trying to gain an unfair advantage by betting on events the moment they occur, the bookies could well void your bets and you could even be asked to leave the ground. This should not put you off betting live as courtsiding takes a real intentional effort because there is such a tiny window in which you can beat the bookies to the punch.