5 Key differences between Rugby and American Football

Many of you may not know this, but American football evolved from rugby back in the 19th century. Today, both Rugby and American Football are a part of many US sportsbooks.

Before you decide to join any of the sports, you need to know the differences between the two. To help you out, we have highlighted the key differences between both the games.

What is the difference between Rugby and American Football?

Both American football and Rugby are enjoyed by millions of people in the states. Although one has evolved from the other, they are two very different games. The main differences between the two games are summed up in the pointers below.


When it comes to American football, the objective is to score more than the opponent. This is to be done by carrying the football beyond the touchline of your opponent team. In football, a team can score points by kicking the football between the posts as well.

Rugby too has the same objective, but in this case, you need to place the ball down. The teams can score points by kicking the ball between the goalposts as well.

The ball

For an unversed person, both American footballs and rugby balls can appear to be the same at the first glance. However, they are different from each other.

American football is approx. 28cm long, whereas a rugby ball is just 27cm long. They are also a bit fatter in the middle than American footballs. One of the major differences can be found in their weight. An American football is just a few ounces, but a rugby ball is at least 1 pound in weight.

Number of players

Now coming to the number of players, rugby teams always have more players than an American football team. This is the easiest way to differentiate between the two games.

For those who don’t know rugby teams are composed of 15 players on the ground. They have at least eight players on the bench. This means the entire squad is of 23 players. On the other hand, a football team has just 11 players in the field. Both the teams keep changing their roles between the defensive and offensive.

Number of substitutes

Even the number of substitutes differ in both the games. In rugby, you can have only seven players as substitutes. However, it is dependent on the rules of the tournament. When a rugby player exits the field for some reason, he cannot enter the game again. He is only allowed to return if a player is injured and there is no substitute available to replace him.

On the other hand, is an American football team, you can have as many substitutes as you want. Also, there are no such rules that a player cannot return to the field if he leaves for some reason.

Protective gear

You can also spot the difference in the protective gear worn by the players. In American football, players are required to wear several protective gear. This includes shoulder pads, helmet, chest pads, gum shield, and leg protector. Wearing all the equipment is mandatory for all the players.

But in rugby, players usually don’t wear any protective equipment. All they use is a gum shield and nothing more than that.

From the above points, the difference between the two sports should be clear. Both rugby and American football are popular games in the US. Now that you know how the two sports differ, you are in a better position to decide which game is for you.

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