Credit: Whales Rugby League Academy

There are two variations of the game of rugby played in the world, the more globally-popular rugby union and rugby league. Both share the basic rules of rugby and even use the iconic oval-shaped ball. The most noticeable distinction between rugby union and rugby league is that the former is contested between teams of fifteen players and the latter between teams of thirteen players.

Uganda is more familiar with the rugby union variation under which the Rugby Cranes are a successful brand, especially in the short code of Sevens.

Over the weekend, the variation of rugby league was officially launched in Uganda by the Whales Rugby League Academy in Bwerenga, Entebbe.

The Whales transitioned from rugby union at the end of the Uganda Rugby Union Sevens Series last year, and have been spreading the game of rugby league far and wide across the country leading up to this launch.

Mid-July last month, Uganda and Cote d’Ivoire became the latest nations to be recommended for observer status to International Rugby League by the Middle-East Africa Rugby League organisation.

Rugby League Uganda’s chairperson, Daniel Geno, said, “Over the last six months, Rugby League Uganda has embarked on a penetration mission to raise the awareness of the game across regions and schools in the country mainly through conducting clinics.”

These clinics and awareness campaigns culminated in the official launch event hosted at Elite High School sportsground on Saturday.

Ten of the nineteen teams forming the Whales Rugby League Academy participated in the games, including Saaza from Kisoro in the South Western tip of Uganda.

Four teams, two males’ and two females’, played nine-a-side matches in full contact while the remaining six played touch.

Fortunate Irankunda officiates a match between Baleen A and Whales Academy Credit: Whales Rugby League Academy

Former Lady Rugby Cranes international Fortunate Irankunda who serves as the director Rugby League Uganda and also heads the Whales Rugby League Academy, that Rugby League will continue the efforts to spread the sport to the entire nation through schools leagues and community outreach programs.

She also added that her academy will be the center for rugby league in Uganda.

The first official domestic rugby league competition in Uganda is expected to kick off in December.

Ernest Akorebirungi is an amateur rugby player and a keen follower of local Ugandan rugby.

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