Everything you need to know about the Toronto Wolfpack's playoff bid

Arun SrinivasanContributor
Yahoo Sports Canada

The Toronto Wolfpack may be the best team in the city. You read that right: not the best team that deserves more attention (they certainly do!) but the best that the city has to offer.

Toronto faces off against Toulouse Olympique in its semifinal at Lamport Stadium on Sunday with the opportunity to advance to the Grand Final.

If you’re asking yourself what this all means, have no fear — we have you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about the Wolfpack on the verge of their mainstream breakout.

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Who are the Toronto Wolfpack and what’s on the line this weekend?

The Wolfpack currently play in the Rugby Football League Championship, a 14-team league which primarily consists of teams from England. Toronto, and France’s Toulouse Olympique.

Toronto was outright dominant this season, posting a 26-0-1 record with its lone loss coming against Toulouse on March 9.

If Toronto defeats Toulouse, it will advance directly into the Grand Final with an opportunity to advance to the Super League, the top-tier rugby league in the northern hemisphere that primarily consists of clubs from England. If Toronto loses, however, it will still get another chance to qualify for the Grand Final against the winner of the matchup between York City Knights and Featherstone Rovers.

In 2018, Toronto was on the precipice of qualifying for the Super League but lost to the London Broncos 4-2 in a match dubbed the “Million Pound Game,” but it ought to be the favourite to advance this season. London, for what it’s worth, has been relegated from the Super League after a last-place finish.

It’s Toronto’s year and this is certainly the time to get invested.

The Toronto Wolfpack are on the verge of their mainstream breakout. (George Wood/Getty Images)
The Toronto Wolfpack are on the verge of their mainstream breakout. (George Wood/Getty Images)

What is the difference between rugby league and rugby union?

The 2019 Rugby World Cup kicks off in Japan on Sept. 20, but you may be wondering why it looks a little different after watching the Wolfpack. While the two games are similar, there are some important differences to note.

Rugby league — the version of the game the Wolfpack play — consists of 13 players on each team, while rugby union has 15 players on each side. The scoring system is also different. In rugby league, a try is worth four points, and the additional convert is worth one, while a try in rugby union is worth five points and the convert is good for two points.

Drop goals are worth one point, while penalties are good for two points in rugby league, while both drop goals and penalties are three points in rugby union.

The operative difference in game play is what happens after a player is tackled. In rugby league, a rule commonly known as the six-tackle rule is applied, where the offensive team can be tackled up to six times in a possession, before being forced to swap possession. If the ball goes out of bounds, the play is reset by a scrum.

In rugby union, these rules don’t apply as there are unlimited chances for the opposing team to score provided no rules are broken. If the ball goes out of play, a line out takes place, which is sort of like a modified soccer throw-in, only with players rising up while carried by teammates to retrieve the ball when thrown into play.

In short, rugby league is much easier to follow.

Which Wolfpack players should I keep an eye on if I’m trying to get into the sport?

Toronto’s fullback/wing Matty Russell is someone you should definitely pay attention to on Sunday. Russell leads the Wolfpack with 28 tries, and the fullback/wing has 10 caps for Scotland internationally. Known for his blistering speed and power, he’s been arguably the Wolfpack’s best player this season, even though he’s battled through injuries throughout the year which has limited him to 19 matches.

Beyond Russell, the Wolfpack boast three nominees for player of the year. Fullback Gareth O’Brien, who has posted 22 tries and a team-leading 77 conversions is in the running, is another player who you’ll likely gravitate to stylistically. Andy Ackers, who plays hooker, and Jon Wilkin, who features at loose forward, also round out the clean sweep for Toronto.

By no fault of their own, their positions are less glamorous, but someone has to do the dirty work in rugby league, and they’ve both more than held their own this season.

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