American football and rugby, what’s the difference?

Rugby is a physically demanding game and when teams from the two universities wanted to play each other in New Brunswick in 1869 it was decided to change the rules of the game, create a hybrid of rugby and European football, removing the power and adding entertainment. This is how American football was born and became the most popular sport in the United States. Each year, nearly half of Americans watch the NFL Super Bowl, as do people in more than 200 other countries. Such events become a magnet for sports bloggers, who continuously increase their ratings, buy Instagram followers, invest in advertising and further fuel the interest of loyal fans. Both games appeared two centuries ago and still do not lose their position. They shine with dynamics, showmanship and tactical art. American football and rugby are two similar sports, but with quite different rules of the game.

soccer field

The playing field in both sports looks the same but has different dimensions. Both fields are rectangular in shape, with soccer goals at opposite ends, and white lines drawn on certain areas of the field. The American Football game is played on a longer and narrower field and is 91.44 meters. The rugby field is larger at 100 meters and the markings are different too. There are side, front and center lines that delimit the goal area. As for the goal, there are no particular differences.


Both American football and rugby use air-filled, oblong-shaped balls of various sizes. The size of the ball depends on the type of game and the age of the players. American football balls are more pointed at the ends, while rugby balls are slightly larger and heavier in diameter. A rugby ball is made of synthetic materials. A soccer ball is made of natural leather that has a rough surface. This allows the ball to be held during play.

Because of its more streamlined shape, a soccer ball has less drag when moving through the air. As a result, American football players launch the ball with an overhead motion, while rugby players throw the ball backwards relatively short distances.

Number of players in the team

Compared to American football, rugby teams have more players on the field. The roles of the players are also different. In American football, each team is made up of three separate entities: offense, defense, and special teams, and these specific roles must be strictly followed.

The number of players in rugby depends on the type of game. The two main types of rugby are rugby union, where each team has 15 players, and rugby league, where each team has 13 players. Due to the fundamentally different style of play of rugby, each player can take on the role of forward and defender if necessary.

replacement of players

In major American football games, most players on the team only attack or defend. If a team wins or loses the ball, the game stops and the players are replaced with 11 new ones. A team may substitute one or more players at any time between games.

There is no limit to the number of player changes allowed during a game, and some players specialize in a particular task at which they excel better than others.

In rugby, the same players remain on the field regardless of which team has possession of the ball. This means that most players need to be versatile and play equally well on both defense and offense.

Equipment of the players

Passing power in American football is, on average, four times higher than in rugby. Therefore, the player’s equipment is more similar to hockey equipment. It includes breeches with knee pads, helmets with protective face masks, strong shoulder pads and knee, shin and thigh protectors.

The form of rugby players is practically no different from ordinary European football. Rugby players typically wear little or no protection. Some players use padded ear, shoulder and collarbone pads, but hard pads are not allowed.

game time

American football lasts four halves of fifteen minutes each. There is a one-minute break after the first and third halves. The break after the second half is fifteen minutes. In American football, time is often timed, such as when a player passes the ball on a forward serve, when a goal is scored, when possession changes, and in certain cases when the ball goes out of bounds.

A standard rugby match consists of two periods of 40 minutes each and the entire game lasts 80 minutes. Play continues until an out or forward pass is made. Breaks are not provided for in the rules, breaks are possible when it is necessary to provide first aid or watch a video replay to resolve a controversial issue.

carry ball

In both sports there is a difference between throwing and catching a ball. In American football, the quarterback usually throws the ball, while in rugby, every player on the field throws and catches the ball.

Rugby players can pass the ball with their hands and feet, but they are not allowed to pass the ball forward with their hands. In US soccer, most basic passes consist of forward passes with the hands, but forward passes with the legs are not allowed.

In American football, a long pass can sometimes carry the game fifty to sixty yards at a time, while in rugby, the game progresses more forward in shorter passes.

In summary, spectators who prefer flashy attacks all over the field appreciate rugby. In American football, physical preparation and tactical components come first. In terms of worldwide popularity, American football is mostly played in the United States, while rugby is more of an international sport and broadcasts of Rugby World Cup matches break all ratings records. During the games, the media and opinion leaders, who constantly buy real Instagram followers and create information frenzy on social networks, often get confused about the names of the games, since both terms used are widely used in the world. In all, there are dozens of local names for soccer and related sports games around the world. However, this does not prevent this sport from remaining truly international and bringing bright emotions and the joy of communication to people from all over the world, regardless of language, skin color and beliefs.

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