Rugby league football, usually called rugby league, is one of the two codes of rugby football and originated in Northern England in 1895 as a split from the Rugby Football Union over the issue of payments to players. Its rules gradually changed to produce a more entertaining game for spectators and is since frequently cited as the toughest, most physically demanding of team sports.
The game holds a significant place in the culture and heritage of the areas where it is played - Northern England, Eastern Australia and Southern France. The European Super League, Australasian National Rugby League and French Elite One Championship are the premier professional club competitions.
Internationally, Rugby league is played predominantly by European, Australasian and Pacific countries and is governed by the Rugby League International Federation. In total, it is played in over 30 nations throughout the world.
The strongest rugby league nations are Australia, England and New Zealand. The Rugby League World Cup is the highest form of representative rugby league and currently features 14 teams (ordered by RLIF rank): Australia, New Zealand, England, Papua New Guinea, France, Wales, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Scotland, USA, Ireland, Italy and Cook Islands.
The current World Champions are New Zealand, who won the 2008 Rugby League World Cup. Prior to this, Australia had won every world cup since 1975.
In Australia, rugby league is the dominant winter sport in Queensland and New South Wales, which combined, include more than half the population of Australia. NRL matches are played throughout Australia and New Zealand from Autumn until Spring, and the season culminates in the premiership-deciding game, the NRL Grand Final. It is traditionally one of Australia's most popular sporting events and one of the largest attended club championship events in the world - and for that reason we have dedicated a separate category for NRL
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