Rugby is one of the most electrifying sports that has dominated the global stage through its electrifying twists and turns. It is a physical, highly-paced, challenging game, creating a scintillating spectacle to watch.
World Rugby governs the rugby sport, with different countries having their own federations that manage the sport in their jurisdiction. The sport is also part of the World Olympics. Additionally, the investment of national leagues in rugby has increased the competitiveness of the sport offering more thrill to the fans.
The following are the top leagues or competitions to follow:
Australian Super Rugby
This is obvious. Super Rugby started in 1996 and features clubs from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and the Pacifics Islands. Initially, it comprised 12 teams from three countries, then increased to 14 in 2006, renaming it to Top 14. It’s now Super Rugby with 15 teams.
Crusaders from New Zealand are the most successful team in the tournament, with ten titles, and are also the current champions.
France Top 14
The tournament involves 14 of the top French rugby clubs. It is the most legendary rugby competition in the world, dating back to 1892. Racing Club de France was the inaugural champion after defeating Stade Francais.
The popularity of the competition grew steadily and was held annually except during the world wars. It grew to become a professional competition in the 1990s. By the mid-2000s, the tournament’s popularity had grown a great amount, attracting dozens of foreign players.
The league has a promotion and relegation arrangement in which the bottom team gets relegated to D2 and replaced with the D2 champion. This makes the tournament competitive.
Stade Toulousain is the most successful club in the tournament, with 21 titles, while Stade Francais is second with 14 titles. The absence of a salary cap enables the league to attract foreign starts as teams are financially stable.
English Premiership Rugby
Premiership Rugby has, over the years, maintained incredibly high-level rugby. The first premiership format was formed in 1987, involving around 1000 teams from 108 leagues. The opening season included Bristol, Bath, Coventry, Harlequins, Gloucester, Moseley, Leicester, Nottingham, Wasps, Sale, Orrell, and Waterloo.
The league turned professional in 1996 thanks to a TV sponsorship deal with Sky Sports, and in 2002, the playoff was introduced. Leicester Tigers has the highest number of titles in premiership history, while Harlequins have dominated the league in recent years, winning the 2021-2022 title.
International superstars like Faf de Klerk, Owen Farell, and Dan Biggar play in the current premiership, with the effects of Covid-19 doing little to reduce the league’s competitiveness. Gallagher is the current premiership’s sponsor, with players earning an average of £84k.
The league is going through a bit of a dark time though with Worcester Warriors being forced into administration following a summer of worry after receiving a huge tax bill. Hopefully, the club will be back bigger and stronger, and it won’t impact the league too much in terms of the competitiveness and quality we’ve come to expect.
Japan Rugby League One
Japan Rugby League One is the most competitive tournament in Japan. 2003-04 was the inaugural season and was initially known as Top League. The Japan Rugby Football Union manages the league, divided into three divisions. Twelve teams participate in division 1, 7 in division 2, and 6 in division 3.
Brave Lupus, Wild Knights, and Sungoliath are the most successful clubs in league history, with wild Knights holding the current title. The championship attracts a lot of significant sponsors like SportBusiness and Panasonic, contributing to handsome salaries for players. The average wage is £210K per year.
The Champions Cup tournament involves top teams from select European nations. It was started in 1995 and initially included teams from Wales, Ireland, France, Italy, and Romania, where Toulouse won the inaugural competition.
The champion’s popularity snowballed, and Europe’s best clubs found themselves competing against each other. Currently, 24 teams from six countries participate in the championship. The top eight English clubs qualify, plus eight top teams from Top 14 France.
The other eight participants come from United Rugby Championship (URC). 2022-2023 will be the first season where teams outside of Europe will participate with South African teams in the URC joining the league.
The absence of a single dominant club makes the Champions Cup an exciting tournament to watch every year. However, Toulouse has lifted the trophy five times, making them the most successful as well as the current holders. France, England, and Ireland are the only countries from which winners have come.
Catch the highlights from the most recent Champions Cup final below:
The above are among the best rugby tournaments to follow. However, there are other exciting domestic and international competitions worldwide that you can always enjoy watching. Let us know which are your favourite leagues and competitions in the comments below.
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Champions Cup is like the Champions League of rugby. Hands down the best competition in the sport!