The Changing Face of Rugby League Nostalgia: A Comparison to Rugby Union

At what point does old rugby start to resemble new rugby? With the advancements in rules, fitness, analytics and coaching since the advent of full-time professionalism in rugby league 25 years ago, it’s worth considering. While rugby union has grown from a non-professional sport into a global entertainment enterprise, there are still debates about whether the game is better now or in the past. Recent events, including the passing of Welsh captain JPR Williams and a Guardian article on the topic, have brought this issue to the forefront. The article argues that nostalgia often distorts the quality of classic matches and challenges the idea that old rugby was superior to modern play. With improved athleticism, coaching, technology, fields, and the evolution of the sport, it’s clear that old rugby may not have been as enjoyable as we remember. The creation of new rules and a shift towards a more open and exciting style of play in rugby union has also led to comparisons with the old game. This has led to a debate about when the game started to truly resemble the modern version. The implementation of the Six Again rule and a focus on defense in the 2000s and 2010s has shaped the style of play we see today. With the rules set to remain unchanged for another season, the current state of the sport may be the best ever, providing athletes with opportunities and coaches with more influence, resulting in a game that is continuously evolving.