Biggest Differences Between American Football and Rugby by Prem Hirubalan

While Rugby and American Football Appear Similar, There Are Major Differences

The rugby ball and the American football are a similar spheroid shape and each team focuses on an underlying objective. The goal is to advance this ball down the field. Players are usually both very athletic, rough-and–tumble types of people, who enjoy physical contact.

Of course, each game pits two opposing teams against one another, which is about where the similarities end. Here are the two biggest differences between rugby and American football.


Huddle Up

Possibly the biggest difference between rugby rules and American football rules is what happens after a runner is tackled. In American football, once the referee rules the player down by contact, all play ceases. Each team regroups to their respective side of the line of scrimmage, where they huddle up to call the next play.

Rugby is played at a much more rapid pace. Once the player carrying the ball is tackled to the ground, they must quickly lateral the ball to another player. Play resumes immediately. There is not huddle in rugby. Now, rugby does have their answer to the huddle. It’s called the scrum.

When play is halted because of a violation, the game is resumed with players locked arm-in-arm with their teammates. While it sort of looks like a huddle, this is a rather odd looking phenomenon. Using their feet, the players in the scrum try to shoot the ball behind them, where a runner picks it up and gallops off towards the opponent’s goal.


The Equipment

The second difference between rugby and American football is the most visible. Rugby players rarely wear any protective gear. Some will wear modest padding to cover injuries, or maybe a mouthpiece to protect their teeth, but the rugby uniform usually consists of a long sleeved shirt, shorts, knee socks and cleats.

About the only similar pieces of uniform equipment worn by football players are the socks and cleats. American football players must wear a padded helmet and shoulder pads. At all levels, but the professional ranks, mouth guards are mandatory by rule.

Most interior players add thigh and knee pads into pockets on their uniform pants. The strategy and playing rules of American football open up players to more violent contact. For that reason, all players are required to wear the basic protective gear. In rugby, it’s almost a badge of honor that rugby players wear little more than the clothes on their back.
While there are minor differences in how points are scored and the way the games are broken up time wise, these are the two most glaring differences. Both sports require a mental toughness for physical contact. However, the equipment required and how the games progress between tackles are the two most significant differences between rugby and American football.