Home I Sports Betting I Sports Featured Articles I American Football vs Rugby
Both American football and rugby are sports for tough guys who push and tackle each other to get the ball into the oponent’s end of the field. And this sentence probably sums up most of the similarities between the two. Rugby, with tens of recognizable leagues and competitions, is very famous in Europe, Australia, and Oceania where American football is not that popular. In terms of audience though, the National Football League (NFL) of the United States beats all the records. Every year the NFL’s final game, the Super Bowl, is the most watched sports event in the entire world.
Rugby was developed in England – at Rugby School in Rugby, Warwickshire. Though the British made it an official sport in the 19th century (first match was in Scotland in December 1857), there is evidence of it being played by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The rules were probably not the same, but the show was surely spectacular to watch. The Rugby Union (RFU) was formed in 1871 by English teams.
American football actually originates from rugby. In the 19th century a student from Yale University named Walter Camp altered rugby inventing the line-of-scrimmage and the downs-and-distance system. Also, the forward pass was presented as the most effective way to advance on the field. Walter is now known as the “Father of American Football”.
The uniforms and protection is the most commented on topic in the American football vs rugby discussion. Football players take advantage of a full range of protective equipment – helmets, shoulder pads, knee and thigh pads, butt pads, shin protectors, jaw pads, neck protectors, rib pads, gloves, padded undershirts, underpants, mouth guards and even more.
Rugby warriors on the other hand, protect only their teeth with a mouth guard (clearly not enough, as judged by close-up photos over the Internet of rugby players with broken or missing teeth). That’s all – the rest is t-shirts and shorts, sometimes light undershirts.
Does the lack of heavy equipment make rugby players tougher than pro footballers? Maybe. Studies show rugby hits are not as hard as football impacts but the pads and helmets do absorb a lot of force.
Tackles in football can generate around 2 tons of force, which looks impressive compared to rugby’s average of 730 kilograms. Technology and advanced materials used in football protection do their job extremely well, keeping players healthy after hundreds of tackles and collisions during a season.
Injuries though, are a common thing in both sports. Most damage in the NFL goes to the ribs, neck, fingers and lower feet, while in rugby there is a well-rounded risk for the whole body due to the absence of padding. The lack of facemasks often leads to broken noses, lost teeth, and concussions. Broken ribs or collar bones are also a thing.
Have you ever wondered why a sport in which mostly hands are involved, is called football? It’s the ball! In American football the pigskin is exactly 1-foot long. Both football and rugby players throw a prolate spheroid but the rugby one looks like it took steroids – bigger, slower and heavier. The international size for rugby balls is “Size 5”, measuring 27 cm in length, 60 in circumference in its widest point and weighing around 450 grams (as opposed to football’s 390 grams).
The shape of the ball determines its speed. The ball in football often flies like a bullet forward, making it harder for defenders to make an interception. In rugby passes are thrown backwards or sideways and the slower flight allows the players to catch up with the throws.
American football is a game of 11 vs 11 players in full equipment including pads and helmets, while rugby features 15 vs 15 and is best described as a mixture between the contact of American football, the running and explosiveness of soccer and the quick offense-defense transitions of basketball.
The NFL allows unlimited substitutions during a match. A normal NFL team consists of a 53-man roster around the field each game. Rugby coaches can only afford 23 players – 15 on the field and 8 replacements on the bench.
In a rugby match each team is allowed 7 substitutions and once pulled back, a player is not allowed to return. There is an exception to this rule though, as an already pulled out player can return to the field in case of injury and no more substitutions left.
Football games have 4 quarters, 15 minutes each. The timer stops frequently between the plays. The pauses are used by players to plan their next play and by broadcasters to run ads. There is a half-time break after the second quarter. Rugby games have two halves of 40 minutes with a 10-minute break in between.
The object of both games is to carry the ball in the opponents’ end zone. In football carrying the ball beyond the touch line is called touchdown (awards 6 points). The ball doesn’t need to touch the ground once brought into the endzone. In rugby such action is called a Try (awards 3 points), but the ball must touch the ground. In both sports there are kicks and goal posts. Kicking the ball between the posts awards additional points.
The field size is different for the two sports. A typical football field is 120 yards in length, which is a little below 110 meters. Of them, the playing field is 100 yards, or 91.4 meters, and the endzones are 10 yards each. The width is 160 feet, which is below 50 meters. Rugby players run across a 120-meter field which is also wider – 70 meters. The field in rugby narrows towards the try area reaching 20 meters.
Plays in American football are short and explosive, taking just a few seconds per play. When the ball carrier is brought to the ground, the play is stopped. Each team has 4 attempts to advance 10 yards towards the enemy endzone. After the team in offense gains the required 10 yards, it gets another 4 attempts for a new ten yards.
And so it goes until a touchdown is scored or the defense gains possession of the ball. In rugby, players move in line with the ball and even after a tackle the play doesn’t stop. Offense and defense modes change as quickly as in basketball. Players are usually very fit because the sport requires strength, speed, and endurance.
In conclusion, American football is not rugby and vice versa. The two games differ by their rules, player equipment, ball shape, field size and more. Both sports though, are equally dangerous and should be played with extreme caution by people in good physical condition!
If you intend to pursue a career in that field, please have in mind that professional football and rugby players are great athletes and dedicate their entire lives to the game of their choice.
These sports, like fighting, wrestling, and boxing, are designed for human beasts with outstanding physical characteristics. If you can afford the time and effort, go for it, as the fame, fortune, and feeling of accomplishment is very high, but all comes with a price. In this case, your physical health.
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