Is Rugby like football ? American football and rugby, what’s the difference?

Is rugby like football ? There has always been an argument about which version of football is better. If we look at things from a wider perspective, both sports are the same. The blueprint and motive are similar. It’s the format, playing conditions, and other things that differ. For a layman, both sports are identical. However, there are a few differences that keep the argument of rugby versus American football alive.

Undoubtedly, both sports have a massive following worldwide. In fact, to some extent, the NFL is a bigger brand. It’s one of the most paid and most-watched sporting leagues in the world. The interest of people in NFL betting is evident.

The success of the Super Bowl is no secret and is probably the highest revenue-generating event. On the other hand, rugby enjoys support from the playing nations. The Rugby World Cup is the biggest stage of all in rugby.

The rivalries in both rugby and American football are of the highest level. Despite being from the same country, the clashes in American football, even at the collegiate level, are noteworthy.

Similarly, the rivalries between South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand are featured in the greatest rivalries of all time. Before we get into the differences, one thing is for sure: American football is derived from rugby.

is rugby like football

Differences between Rugby and American football

The excitement, drama, thrill, and passion of both leagues are the same. You will enjoy watching either version. The following are some notable differences that distinguish one from the other.

Playing field

The playing field for rugby is bigger than American football. It’s longer and wider, pushing players an extra mile. The American football pitches are the same regardless if it’s high school, collegiate, or the NFL. Every playing field is standardized and has the same dimensions, whereas rugby fields can differ from place to place.

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A standard American pitch is 100 yards long and 53 1/3 yards wide. The rugby field is 122-134 yards long and 74-76 yards wide. The end zones also have different dimensions, American football has a 10-yard end zone, and rugby has a 5.5-24 yards end zone on each side.

Protection Gear

The two sports also have significant differences when it comes to the protection gear. In American football, players wear the same equipment irrespective of their playing positions. They all put on helmets, pads, gloves, cleats, elbow pads and hip & knee paddings to protect themselves during the game. Meanwhile, rugby players don’t wear a lot of equipment and hence they are more exposed. They only have skull caps and body protection.

Rules of playing

The playing rules are very different between American football and rugby. 15 players take to the field in rugby while American football limits that to only 11.

A player can be subbed in and out at any time in American football. Rugby uses a 23-player squad and a substituted player cannot return to the field again.

In rugby, players have to do everything and can do everything. They do more than what is required of them. In contrast, American football players are assigned a specialised role. There is a greater rotation because of its intense nature.

 Ball dimensions

It is interesting to know that both sports have the same ball dimensions. The balls used weigh around 15 ounces and have the length of 11-11.25 inches. However, the circumference is different with American football having 28 inches and rugby having around 22.8-24 inches.


In rugby, if a player is tackled then it is necessary for the ball to be released. And thus the play is not over and the ball becomes available for others to play. However, that is not the case in football where the play is over and time is given to run another play after a player has been tackled. It takes four attempts for a team to get 10 yards. If they fail to do so, then the ball is turned over. This is the reason why teams punt on fourth down to gain field position.

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Both American football and rugby use air-inflated oblong-shaped balls of various sizes. The size of the ball depends on the type of game and the age of the players. Balls for American football are more pointed at the ends, while rugby balls are slightly larger in diameter and heavier. A rugby ball is made from synthetic materials. A football ball is made of natural leather that has a rough surface. This allows the ball to be held during the game.

Due to its more streamlined shape, a soccer ball has less resistance when it moves through the air. Therefore, American football players launch the ball with an overhead motion, while rugby players throw the ball backward over relatively short distances.

Number of players in the team

Compared to American football, rugby teams have more players on the field. The roles of the players are also different. In American football, each team consists of three separate units: offense, defense, and special teams and these specific roles must be strictly adhered to.

The number of players in rugby depends on the type of game. The two main types of rugby are Rugby Union, where each team has 15 players, and Rugby League, where each team has 13 players. Due to the fundamental difference in how rugby is played, each player can take on the role of striker and defender when needed.

Replacement of players

In the most significant American football games, most of the players on the team only attack or defend. When a team gains or loses the ball, play stops, and players are replaced by 11 new ones. At any time between plays, a team may substitute one or more players.

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There is no limit to the number of player substitutions allowed during a game, and some players specialize in one particular task at which they excel better than others.

In rugby, the same players remain on the field, regardless of which team took possession of the ball. This means that most players need to be versatile and play equally well in both defense and offense.

is rugby like football

Players’ equipment

Passing power in American football is on average four times greater than in rugby. Therefore, the equipment of the player is more like a hockey one. It includes breeches with knee pads, helmets with a protective face mask, strong shoulder pads, as well as knee, shin, and thigh protection.


There are similarities as well as differences between the two sports. However, people who love American football will love the sport while those who are fans of rugby will also not switch loyalties.

There are many who have been followers of these sports for a long time. They regularly watch matches and have a good opinion about all the players and coaches. These are the fans who deeply love the sport and all the inspirational loving quotes in Rugby rings true for them because they love the sport with all its imperfections.

Therefore, it will be a futile attempt to try to sway the opinion of a rugby supporter or a fan of American football. They will love their favorite sports no matter what anyone says.

Above is information is rugby like football.  Hopefully, through the above content, you have a more detailed understanding of is rugby like football .Thank you for reading our post.

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