Bridging the Ocean-Wide Gap – What Makes Football and Rugby Similar?

The Atlantic Ocean spreads these two sports miles apart, but the similarities between football and rugby keep them close to each other. For someone who is not into sports, the only difference seems to be the absence of helmets in rugby. However, there are numerous other similarities that make these two sports distant relatives.


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Game Goals

The main goal of playing these two sports is absolutely the same – getting the oval ball behind the opponents’ back. A touchdown in football is called a try in rugby.  In football, you should hit the ground with the ball beyond the touchline to add 6 points to the total score.  While in rugby, you are supposed to only touch the line with the ball to gain four points to the team’s score in the rugby union or five points in the rugby league. In addition, you can also kick the ball between the posts that look like a goal, but without a crossbar.

Field Size

The measurements of the field size for these two sports are very similar. In football, the field is about 110m long and about 50m wide. It is important to mention that the length has two additional end zones, each about 9m long. Similarly, the rugby field is about 100m long, but its width is about 70m. There are additional twenty meters in the try area, too.

Ball characteristics

In both sports, the ball has a spheroid shape. Although they are similar in shape, there are a few differences. It is 28cm long in football, and rugby players throw a 27cm-long ball. The rugby ball has a longer circumference (60cm), while the football ball has a circumference of about 56cm. In addition, the ball used in rugby is slightly heavier than the ball used in football (1lb vs. 0.875lb).


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When they are in full uniform, the players in NFL look like they are about to conquer Sparta.  They usually wear a helmet with  several pieces of padding: shoulder, chest, and leg padding are all required In this league. Also, it is mandatory to wear a mouth guard. On the other hand, rugby players are not equipped with as many items as their American fellows. They do not wear any helmets, but  they do wear slight padding on their collarbone, shoulders, and on their heads. They are obliged to wear a mouth guard, as well.


Although rugby is played in the US, being especially popular with college players, NFL is still much more popular across the ocean than in the UK. On the other hand, rugby enjoys worldwide popularity, mostly thanks to the British Commonwealth. The fact that New Zealand, Australia, and England are among the leading rugby countries in the world proves that the Commonwealth is a true rugby association. Also, here is a map of the popularity of rugby in the world.

Physical requirements

Both sports demand powerful, strong players that can endure hours of intensive physical effort. Both sports include a dose of aggression, since it is based on a physical contact, but with some limitations, of course. A large number of umpires / referees (3 to 6 in football; 4 plus a screen observer in rugby) make sure that players do not get too aggressive. Also, NFL rumors have it that the biggest tackle force in a match of American football was 4600lbs, as opposed to 1600lbs in rugby.

Although football is mainly restricted to the US, many enthusiasts all over the world start and play in their own football leagues. Rugby, on the other hand, is gaining popularity in the states. It seems that these two sports will keep coming closer, thanks to their similarities.

Dan Radak is a web hosting security professional with ten years of experience. He is a coauthor on several websites and regular contributor to BizzMark Blog. Lately, he is interested in sports and NFL in particular.


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