The Main Differences Between Rugby and American Football in a Nutshell

These two sports are often accused of being too similar. After all, they have a similar shaped ball and involve running from one end of a field to another. Surely, that’s all there is to it? Well, not quite. There are some seriously big differences between rugby and American Football. We’re going to break it down for you.

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The Basics

Let’s kick off (excuse the pun) with some of the basics. In American Football there are 11 players on the field at any one time. In Rugby, you’ll find that each Union team has 15 players. These numbers change around if it’s not a Union game. When it comes to the object of each game, you’ll find that it’s pretty much exactly the same. Both sports require the team to carry their ball over the touch line. In Rugby, however, the ball has to be placed on the line for it to count as a try. In American Football, just getting it over the line is enough – this is then called a touch down. Weird, considering the ball isn’t touched down on anything. Both sports also require players to kick the ball between the two goal posts. This is known as a conversion in Rugby and a Field Goal in American Football.

Time Limit

There are two halves in rugby, both lasting 40 minutes each. The players get a 10 minute half time to compose themselves and wipe off any blood – usually coming from their noses or lips. The clock will only stop if there are any nasty injuries, otherwise it just keeps on ticking. On the other hand, American Football is played in quarters. Each quarter lasts 15 minutes, with a half time break after the first two quarters. You’ll find that the clock seems to stop constantly in this game, meaning it will tend to last a lot longer than it should. Annoyingly in some cases. However, it’s the time limit that makes these games quite different indeed.

The Ball

They may look pretty similar, both being a prolate spheroid, but Rugby and American Football balls have pretty different dimensions. An American Football ball is slightly larger, at 28cm long and 56cm in circumference. On the other hand, a Rugby ball is 27cm long and 60cm in circumference. Shorter and fatter, basically. You’ll also notice differences in the weight of the ball, with a 0.875lb ball for the Americans and a whole pound for Rugby players. And it’s not just the balls that are bigger in Rugby. The heaviest ever player, Bill Cavubati, weighed a whopping 442.5lbs. We reckon he could cause some serious damage.

Other Key Differences

There are some other quite distinct differences between the two sports. For a starters, you’ll find Rugby World Championships, whereas American Football tends to just stick in America. In American Football you’re allowed unlimited substitutions, which is handy when it comes to all those injuries. Rugby is stricter, however, only allowing up to 7 in a game. You’d think that with only a few subs allowed they’d be far more protected in Rugby. You’d be wrong. While American Football players are covered in padding and don heavy helmets, Rugby players are only allowed minimal protection gear. No wonder people think Rugby is the more dangerous of the two sports.

Both games are equally as fascinating to watch, however, and that’s what makes them loved around the world. Whether you’re a huge NFL fan or count down the days until the Rugby World Cup, there’s no denying that these games have some distinct similarities. But some pretty big differences too.