Rugby is a massively popular sport in England. Due to that, there is a huge amount of teams playing at different levels throughout the country these are split up by ability into different leagues, known as tiers.
How many tiers are there in English Rugby? There are 11 different tiers in English rugby which feature hundreds of different rugby teams. These tiers stretch from professional rugby, all the way down to amateur rugby at the bottom level.
The system of English rugby is a lot simpler than football in the country. That is because there are fewer rugby teams in England than football teams. But there are still a total of eleven different tiers in English rugby, starting with professional rugby at the very top and amateur rugby at the bottom level.
So if a team were to somehow make it from the very bottom tier of English Rugby to the top, they would have to be promoted ten times to even get to Premiership Rugby. The different tiers are in the game to make sure that teams are playing against their right level of competition.
It also gives teams something to aim for. Every team who is on a tier below Premiership Rugby are aiming to get to the very top level of English Rugby. Even teams at a lower level know that if they play extremely well, they can be promoted to a higher tier of rugby. There is also the threat of relegation which
In total there are 106 different leagues of rugby within England. These are then distributed within the eleven different tiers in the English system. There have been a few different changes to the system over the last few years, so there is a good chance that the number of tiers within the English system could change again very soon.
What is the second tier of English Rugby?
While the top level of English Rugby is known to be Premiership Rugby. Despite that, not a lot of people know about the second tier of English Rugby.
The RFU Championship is the second tier of English Rugby. It sits just below the top tier of English Rugby which is Premiership Rugby. For many years, the top team from the Championship has been promoted to the Premiership, while the team that finished in last in the Premiership would usually be relegated to the Championship.
However Championship Rugby has not really acted like a second tier over the past few years. That is because due to the Covid-19 pandemic and other teams going into administration, there has not been any relegation or promotion between the Championship and Premiership Rugby.
Relegation and promotion have partially returned for the 2023-24 season. At the end of the season, the team that finishes top of the RFU Championship will face the team that finished bottom of Premiership Rugby. The winner of the game will get a place in Premiership Rugby for the following season.
This is not a guarantee of promotion, as the Championship Rugby side that finishes top still needs to meet the Premiership eligibility rules. If they don’t then the team will not be promoted.
The second tier of English Rugby has a few different names. It is sometimes known simply as The Championship. It can also be called the English Championship or the RFU Championship. Calling it the Rugby Championship would confuse the league with the international competition involving the fourth major southern hemisphere teams.
What is a Tier 1 team in rugby?
If you have ever watched international rugby before, you might have heard the teams being called Tier 1 or Tier 2 teams. The explanation for this is actually quite simple.
A tier 1 team is one of the big international teams who are some of the best in the world. The Tier 1 teams in international rugby are Japan, France, South Africa, Italy, England, Australia, Argentina, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand and Wales. These are seen as historically the best eleven teams in international rugby.
The teams do occasionally change, as there were only ten tier 1 teams until 2020 when Japan was added to the list due to their strong performances over the previous few years. It is more of a historical ranking, with the World Rugby rankings giving more of an indication on the quality of each team at the current time.
What is a Tier 2 team in rugby?
Tier 2 teams in rugby are quite simply the group of rugby teams who sit just below the top teams in international rugby. These teams include Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Namibia, Romania, Georgia, Canada, USA, Portugal and Spain. There is some debate over which teams are included as Tier 2.
While Japan has also been seen as a tier 2 nation, they were upgraded to Tier 1 in 2020. There is also more debate about the teams that should be in each tier. For example, Italy are considered to be a Tier 1 team in World Rugby. They are ranked below Fiji and were recently ranked below Samoa.
Italy have also never been to the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals, while Fiji have been to that stage of the tournament twice before. So it is not always easy to decide what is a tier 1 nation and what is a tier 2 nation.
There is usually quite a big divide between the tier 1 nations and the tier 2 nations. World Rugby have often been criticised for not having enough fixtures between countries from different tiers. That is especially true at the moment as the gap between the tiers seems to be closing slightly.
With more opportunities in domestic rugby, Tier 2 nations are closing the gap slightly on tier 1. Fiji beat Australia at the 2023 Rugby World Cup, the first time they have ever done that at the tournament. Similarly, Wales lost to Georgia in 2022, while England also lost to Fiji just prior to the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
So there is a much more blurred line between the Tier 1 and the Tier 2 nations than you might think.