Difference between Rugby and the American football

It is not an uncommon sight to witness people debating about which version of football is better. However, broadly speaking, it wouldn’t be wrong to say both sports are the same. Whether it is rugby or American football, the blueprint and the motive are similar. But there are significant differences when it comes to playing rules, playing fields and ball dimensions, etc.

If we talk about popularity, then the National Football League (NFL) would probably trump all the other brands. It has a massive following around the world but especially in the United States, where reliable NFL betting is what everyone is looking for.

The Super Bowl is one of the most popular single sporting events in the world, second only to the Champions League final as the most watched annual club sporting event.

On the other hand, Rugby doesn’t enjoy the same popularity levels as American football, but still it boasts a huge following in countries such as England, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, and France. The Rugby World Cup is the biggest stage of all in the rugby world.

Below we have discussed some of the main differences between rugby and American football.

1- Playing Field

The playing field for American football is the same everywhere, whether it is collegiate, high school or the NFL. A standard pitch is 100 yards long and 74-76 yards wide. In comparison, the dimensions of rugby fields can vary from place to place. However, they tend to be longer and wider than the playing fields used for American football. The rugby field is 122-134 yards long and 74-76 yards wide.

The end zones of the two sports also have different dimensions. American football has a 10-yard end zone while rugby has a 5.5-24 yards end zone.

2- Protection Gear

 The two sports also have significant differences when it comes to the protection gear. In American football, players wear the same equipment irrespective of their playing positions. They all put on helmets, pads, gloves, cleats, elbow pads and hip & knee paddings to protect themselves during the game. Meanwhile, rugby players don’t wear a lot of equipment and hence they are more exposed. They only have skull caps and body protection.

3- Rules of playing

The playing rules are very different between American football and rugby. 15 players take to the field in rugby while American football limits that to only 11.

A player can be subbed in and out at any time in American football. Rugby uses a 23-player squad and a substituted player cannot return to the field again.

In rugby, players have to do everything and can do everything. They do more than what is required of them. In contrast, American football players are assigned a specialised role. There is a greater rotation because of its intense nature.

4- Ball dimensions

It is interesting to know that both sports have the same ball dimensions. The balls used weigh around 15 ounces and have the length of 11-11.25 inches. However, the circumference is different with American football having 28 inches and rugby having around 22.8-24 inches.

5- Tackles

In rugby, if a player is tackled then it is necessary for the ball to be released. And thus the play is not over and the ball becomes available for others to play. However, that is not the case in football where the play is over and time is given to run another play after a player has been tackled. It takes four attempts for a team to get 10 yards. If they fail to do so, then the ball is turned over. This is the reason why teams punt on fourth down to gain field position.


There are similarities as well as differences between the two sports. However, people who love American football will love the sport while those who are fans of rugby will also not switch loyalties. 

There are many who have been followers of these sports for a long time. They regularly watch matches and have a good opinion about all the players and coaches. These are the fans who deeply love the sport and all the inspirational loving quotes in Rugby rings true for them because they love the sport with all its imperfections. Therefore, it will be a futile attempt to try to sway the opinion of a rugby supporter or a fan of American football. They will love their favorite sports no matter what anyone says.