Differences between Rugby and American Football

7 Differences between Rugby and American Football

Have you just started receiving private football coaching? Do you want to be a part of the school football team one day? Chances are that you want to know more about the sport as well as its history. Your personal football coach can sure give you a quick football history lesson but if you want to know more, this post is for you!

American Football evolved from Rugby and Soccer by the end of the 19th century. Here in this post, we will discuss the top seven differences between Rugby and American Football:

Difference #1 between Rugby and American Football: The Objective

In American Football, the objective is to score more points than the opponent, by successfully carrying the football beyond the opponent’s touch line. It’s called a touchdown. A team can also score points in a football game by kicking the ball between the posts. It’s called a field goal.

Rugby and American Football

In Rugby, the objective is pretty much the same but the ball also needs to be placed down. It’s called a ‘try.’ A Rugby team can also score points by kicking the ball between the designated goalposts. These points are referred to as penalty kick, conversion or drop goal.

drop goal

Difference #2 between Rugby and American Football: The Number of Players

Compared to American Football, Rugby teams are much larger.

At any point in time, Rugby has a total of 15 players on the pitch, in addition to eight reserve players. Thus, the Rugby squad comprises of a total of 23 players. A reserve may be used when a player from the starting XV has to leave due to injuries.

In American Football, an 11-player team has possession of the ball; the two teams switch roles between the offensive and the defensive.

Difference #3 between Rugby and American Football: The Ball

Although Rugby balls and American footballs look identical at first glance, they are in fact different.

The Ball

  • A Rugby ball is approximately 27cm long; an American football is around 28cm long
  • Rugby balls (60cm circumference at center) are fatter in the middle in comparison to American footballs (56cm circumference at center)
  • Rugby ball weighs around 1lb whereas an American football weighs a few ounces less
  • In order to facilitate better grip and throw, American footballs have more number of pointy ends as well as a seam
  • With a more streamlined design, a football encounters lesser drag when moving through the air

Rugby and American Football players try taking advantage of the unique design of each ball. While American Football players pass the ball in an overhand motion for a stable flight, Rugby players pass the ball in an underhand motion, over relatively shorter distances.

Difference #4 between Rugby and American Football: Substitutions

In American Football, a team can substitute any number of players.

In Rugby, however, a team can substitute a maximum of seven players depending upon the specific rules applicable in a tournament.

Substitutions

Once a Rugby player has left the pitch due to some reason, he cannot return to the field play except when another player gets injured and no other substitute is available.

Difference #5 between Rugby and American Football: Field

American football fields are 109.73m long; a Rugby field is 120m long.

Different Field

American football pitches are 48.77m wide; a Rugby pitch is 70m wide.

football and rugby pitches

Difference #6 between Rugby and American Football: Protective Gear

In American Football, players wear various protective equipment such as

  • Helmet
  • Shoulder & chest pads
  • Leg protector
  • Gum shield

Protective Gear

Wearing above mentioned protective equipment is a necessary requirement in American Football.

In Rugby players hardly use any protective gear. Most are out in the field with just a gum-shield.

rugby protective gear

Difference #7 between Rugby and American Football: Time

A Rugby game is played over a total duration of 80 minutes (divided into two halves of 40 minutes each).

In the National Football League (NFL) matches, each game is divided into four 15-minute quarters. After the first two quarters, there’s a 12-minute long break.

Since the teams need to switch ends of the field after each quarter, two-minute breaks happen at the end of the 1st and 3rd quarters.

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