Best Rugby Union Competitions in the World and what to follow

Rugby is one of the most exciting sports in the world. It is incredibly physical, high paced and challenging for the players. It creates a brilliant spectacle to watch and there are some great competitions across the world that showcase rugby at its best.

Premiership Rugby

There is a lot of conversation about the best competitions in the world, but Premiership Rugby certainly shows an incredibly high level of rugby.

In 1987, the very first league system was created, forming a pyramid that included roughly 1000 clubs across 108 leagues. In the first season the clubs involved were Bath, Bristol, Coventry, Gloucester, Harlequins, Leicester, Moseley, Nottingham, Orrell, Sale, Wasps and Waterloo.

There was early success with the league with some of the better teams bringing in large crowds as Bath and Leicester began to dominate the competition. In the mid-1990s, two big things happened to move Premiership rugby forward, with a TV deal with Sky Sports eventually leading to the league becoming professional for the 1996-97 season.

The playoff was introduced in 2002 and is still in place today. It means that at the end of the season, the top four teams would enter into a semi final and the a final, to determine the winner of the league. It means that teams who finished fourth in the regular season could still win the title, as reigning champions Harlequins did in 2021.

Today, the league is going through big changes caused by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. A salary cap has been implemented to reduce costs, but it should also produce a more competitive league. The current premiership contains international superstars like Owen Farrell, Faf de Klerk and Dan Biggar as well as many others. It produces incredibly fast paced, exciting rugby thanks to teams like Bristol Bears and Harlequins.

Premiership Rugby Fixtures & Scores

United Rugby Championship (URC)

The URC is one of the newer competitions on the calendar, with its first season beginning in 2021. The roots of the competition dates back to 1999, when the Welsh-Scottish League was created. With only a few teams in each country, it was agreed that Welsh and Scottish teams would play in the same league, before Irish teams joined years later.

In 2011, the competition became known as the Pro 12 as two teams from Italy had been included to the competition. Before the Italian teams were included, Munster and the Ospreys were the early winners with both winning three titles in the first decade of the competition.

In recent years, there have been huge changes to the competition, thanks to a disagreement down south. South African rugby could not agree a new deal with Super Rugby and so four South African teams left the competition, while looking for a new competition, they made an agreement with the Pro14 to create the URC.

Today, the competition is known as the United Rugby Championship and contains teams from five different countries. There are two Italian teams, four Irish teams, two Scottish teams, four South African teams and four Welsh teams. It is a very new creation and South African teams becoming a part of European rugby is something that will take some time to get used to.

There has been one constant over the last few years in the competition and that is the dominance of Leinster. The Irish province have won eight titles including the last four straight. There dominance is continuing this year despite the additions of the South African teams.

It is still a brilliant league to follow, producing some incredibly physical rugby, with the South African teams bringing exciting fast paced rugby and some great crowds.

URC Fixtures & Scores

Top 14

The third top league in the Northern hemisphere is the Top 14. It is also the most historic rugby competition in the world, having been founded all the way back in 1892. In that year, two Paris sides, Stade Francais and Racing Club de France, competed in the final with the latter becoming the inaugural champion.

Since then, the competition began to quickly grow in popularity and was held every year other than during the world wars. The competition continued to go on and it finally became a professional competition in the 1990s. The competition also saw huge rising popularity in the mid-2000s and it began a lot of foreign players joining the league.

One of the things that makes the league good is promotion and relegation. Just below the Top 14 Is D2, with the bottom finishing club being relegated down to D2 and being replaced by the winner of D2 and the second bottom club of the Top 14 entering a playoff with the runner up of D2 for the final Top 14 place.

In terms of clubs, there have been a few different teams who have experienced dominant periods. The most successful team is current champions Stade Toulousain who are captained by former player of the year Antione Dupont. They have 21 titles, seven more than second place Stade Francais.

There are a few reasons why the league is one of the best in the world. The Top 14 has incredibly economically strong teams and the league does not have a salary cap so it attracts a huge number of international stars. Rugby legends like Johnny Wilkinson, Matt Giteau, Dan Carter and Bryan Habana have all played in the league.

With other leagues struggling more with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Top 14 is thriving with two French teams winning both European titles as well as France winning the most recent Six Nations.

Top 14 Fixtures & Scores

Champions Cup

All three of the leagues previously mentioned feed into the Champions cup which was first created in 1995. It is the top tier of domestic European rugby, with clubs qualifying through good performances in the leagues.

The competition was formed as the Heineken cup and originally included twelves teams from Ireland, Wales, Italy, Romania and France were included with Toulouse winning the inaugural competition beating Cardiff. English and Scottish teams joined a year later with Romanian teams dropping out. It became a competition including four pools of five teams.

The popularity of the competition quickly grew as it became the very best teams in Europe playing against each other. Since the first year of the competition it has expanded to 24 teams. The current competition contains teams from six countries.

The top eight teams in England qualify as well as the top eight teams based on position in the Top 14 in France. The top eight of the URC also qualify for the champions cup and the 2022-23 season will be the fist to include teams outside of Europe, with South African teams from the URC qualifying for 2022-23.

One of the things that makes the competition so exciting is that there is very rarely a single dominant team. The most successful team is Toulouse who have won the competition five teams, most recently in 2021. The winners of the competition have only ever come from France, Ireland or England, with Cardiff being the only team outside of those three countries to reach the final.

If you enjoy the sounds of the three leagues already mentioned, the Champions cup is a combination of all three and produces the highest quality rugby as it pits opposing styles against each other every week.

Champions Cup Fixtures & Scores

Super Rugby Pacific

The four competitions mentioned are all in the northern hemisphere but it should be noted that the southern hemisphere contains Super Rugby, one of the best leagues in the world. It was first formed in 1996 when rugby became professional. The original league contained twelves teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

After some success, a new television deal was announced in 2006 as well as two new teams being introduced to make it the Super 14, with another team being added in 2011. Four years later, two new teams were added, the Jaguars from Argentina and the Sunwolves from Japan to expand the competition.

In recent years, Super Rugby has gone through some huge changes. They began in 2015 with three teams dropping out of the competition. But the biggest changes came in 2020 when South Africa Rugby announced the withdrawal of their four Super Rugby franchises from the competition as the four would join the URC.

This meant huge changes had to be made to the competition with the Jaguares also pulling out. With the Covid-19 pandemic causing the 2020 and 2021 competitions to become completely domestic, Super Rugby Pacific was announced as the new name for 2022. This was because of the introduction of two new teams.

Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua joined the competition to make it 12 teams from four different countries, although Moana Pasifika is a team made up of a few different Pacific Islands.

As has been with international rugby, the competition has been dominated by New Zealand teams. The Crusaders are by far the most successful team in the competition having won ten titles, with second place teams Blues and Bulls only having three. Despite this dominance, the league is incredibly exciting and great to watch.

Super Rugby Fixtures & Scores

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