Four Nations. One Winner.
The Four Nations kicks off on Friday 28th October. While it will only be the 5th time this tournament has run, it has quickly become one of the most anticipated Rugby League championships on the calendar. From Round 1 on Friday, England, Australia, New Zealand and Scotland will battle it out to be declared the Four Nations Champion. It promises to be unmissable.
In anticipation of the tournament, we’re taking a look at the England team (the host nation), their chances, a rough guide to the key differences between league and union for any union fanatics interested in the tournament and a brief history of the Four Nations.
England are Ready
England have yet to win the Four Nations format since it was introduced in 2009. While it’s usually a close run thing, England will be hoping that the home advantage gives them the edge this year.
Their warm up game has certainly given fans hope that this could be the one. England travelled to Avignon to play France last weekend in anticipation of the Tournament and managed to trounce the home team 6 points to 40.
Running in a total of seven tries, it is this kind of running, brutal and quick rugby that England will need to take to the Four Nations.
Union fans unfamiliar with League will recognise one face on the England team sheet. The mis-managed talent and much discussed Sam Burgess who was rushed into the England Rugby World Cup 2015 squad will be let loose in with England Rugby League team for the Four Nations. Expect to see him make much more impact here than in RWC2015.
The full England Squad for the Four Nations is full of talent. Speaking about the selection process England head coach, Wayne Bennett said: “There’s been a lot of competition for places this year and the players that have been picked are the ones we believe will stand up to the test of the competing nations.”
Wayne Bennett’s England squad for this autumn’s #4Nations and International Test match against France.
— England Rugby League (@England_RL) October 10, 2016
It looks like he’s built a team that can take the trophy. We’ll find out if they can next month.
Rugby League 101
If you’re coming to League for the first time to watch the Four Nations, below we’ve put together some of the key differences you’ll need to keep in mind while watching. If you’ve only ever really watched union, the biggest thing you’ll notice is the speed of the game. There is far less stopping, starting and slowing down in a game of League.
Saying that, there is still more that’s the same than different. It’s not surprising given that they both stem from the same sport but have diverged over the course of history. Don’t worry about the differences too much just get behind your team and enjoy the show.
Players: There are only 13 League players on the pitch compared to the 15 found in Union. The larger space is one of the reasons League is a quicker game.
Points: While both codes still use tries, penalties, conversions and drop goals to score points, you’ll find a lot more tries in a typical game of league than union. This is because while a try itself is only worth 4 points and a conversion 2, drop goals are only worth 1 point in league and penalties are worth 2. This makes scoring tries the easiest way to rack up a lead.
Tackles: There are no rucks in league. After a tackle there is a simple play-the-ball restart and play continues for the team in possession. After the 6th tackle however, the team must hand over possession to the defending team.
Tackling is one on one but tacklers are allowed to use their legs to bring down their opponent if both hands are on the player.
Other Laws: There are no line-outs in League, when the ball goes in touch, a scrum is used. Another key law is that you can throw the ball out of play in league without penalty rather than just kicking it.
Obviously there are more differences and these change the way the game is played in fundamental ways. However, as long as you know the basics, you’ll follow along fine.
The Four Nations
The biennial tournament is fought between England, Australia, New Zealand and one invitational team from the winner of the regional tournament in the South Pacific or Europe which rotates.
This year Scotland will be joining the top League teams after winning the Rugby League European Cup in 2014. While Scotland will be raring to go, fans will have realistic expectations. The invitational teams have yet to beat any of the other three nations in the Four Nations format.
Both Australia and New Zealand have won the tournament twice, while England have fallen at the last hurdle twice. With the Tournament being played at home this year, England will be looking to capitalise and ensure that they aren’t left 3 trophies behind New Zealand or Australia.
Are you excited for the Four Nations? Who do you think will win? Let us know in the comments below.