Rugby vs American Football: Difference and Comparison

The world of sports has evolved quite a lot in the last few decades. Sports like soccer, cricket, rugby, American football, etc., generate huge revenue and are really popular among the masses.

Both rugby and American football have very similar gameplay but are very different from each other. Here’s everything you need to know about the difference between Rugby and American football. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Rugby involves continuous play and fewer protective gears, while American football has stop-and-start gameplay and extensive padding for players.
  2. American football features specialized positions and more complex strategies than rugby.
  3. Rugby is played globally, with a stronger international presence, whereas American football is predominantly popular in the United States.

Rugby vs American Football

Rugby is played without pads or helmets, and players can pass the ball backwards or kick it at any time. American football is played with protective gear, and the ball can only be passed forward or thrown. Scoring also differs, with rugby’s try worth five points and football’s touchdown worth six.

Rugby vs American Football

In rugby, the objective of the team is to place down the oval-shaped ball over the opponent’s line to secure a goal. This can be done both by kicking it or taking it by the hands over the line. This process is called a ‘try.’


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In American football, the team’s objective is comparatively the same as in rugby, which is to take the ball over the opponent’s line either by kicking or by hands.

However, it is called ‘touchdown’ in football as the ball needs to be stamped down on the ground over the end zone.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonRugbyAmerican Football
OriginIt originated in England in 1823.It originated in America during the late 19th century.
PlayersIn rugby union, there are 15 players whereas, in rugby league, there are 13 players in a team.Any team in American football has 11 players.
Protection GearThis sport is not as dangerous as American football and requires no gears and only gum shields.This is a dangerous sport and requires protection gear such as helmets, shoulder pads, knee pads, etc.
Famous PlayersThe famous players of rugby include Jonah Lomu, Dan Carter, Maro Itoje, etc.The famous players of American football are Tom Brady, Jerry Rice, Jim Brown, etc.
Olympic StatusRugby got inclusion in the 2016 Rio Olympics, with the name of Rugby Sevens.American football does not have Olympic status as it is very expensive and time taking.

What is Rugby?

Rugby, which is also known as Rugby union or rugby league, has originated in England. The only difference between the above two names is that while the former has 15 players in each team, the latter has 13 players.

The credit for its invention is given to William Webb Ellis, who once picked up a football and started running during a school football match in an English school in 1823.

The craze of this sport is ever-increasing, and many countries have started forming the domestic and international circuits for rugby.

Traditionally, countries like England, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, etc., have been producing the best players. The field size cannot be more than 100 meters in length and more than 70 meters in width.

The game lasts for 80 minutes, and the objective of both teams is to attain the maximum number of points by scoring more and more tries.

Eight of the fifteen players stand together in the front to take the ball’s possession from the other team, while the other seven players remain backward and run across the field with the ball.

There The ball can only be thrown backward. A team can score 5 points for a successful try and 3 points for a kick, both in-game and during the penalty.

There are provisions of penalties and yellow cards for a violent tackle below the shoulder.


What is American Football?

American football is very similar to rugby, yet a very violent form of the game. Unlike rugby, players in American football go all out while tackling.

Due to this aggression, the players need to wear protective gear and accessories such as hard headgear, helmets, shoulder pads, knee pads, gum shields, etc.

As the name suggests, it was invented in America, and Walter Camp is considered the ‘Father of modern American football.’

The game has a huge fan base in the United States of America and Canada, and both the countries have leagues such as NFL and CFL, respectively, which brings huge revenue from the sport.

Each team has 11 players with the objective to score a maximum number of touchdowns over the opponent’s end zone in order to win.

The game lasts for one hour and has 4 quarters of 15 minutes each. The ground is about 100 meters long and about 50 meters wide.

Both the teams exchange the possession of the ball one after the other, and while one team gets to attack, the other one has to defend.

A successful touchdown scores 6 points, a field goal scores 3 points, and a successful tackle of the offense by the defense or ‘safety’ secures 2 points.

american football

Main Differences Between Rugby and American Football

  1. A ball used for rugby is about 27cm long and has a weight of about 1 pound. The ball used for American football is about 28cm long, and the weight is a few ounces less than a pound. It also has more spikes than a rugby ball for better grip.
  2. In rugby, there can be a maximum of seven substitutes in a match. There are no such restrictions on substituting players in American football.
  3. Rugby was invented in England by William Webb Ellis in 1823. American football was invented in America by Walter Camp in the late 19th century.
  4. A rugby match lasts for 80 minutes with a half time, at the 40th minute. An American football match lasts for 60 minutes and has 4 quarters of 15 minutes each.
  5. The best players of rugby come from the United States of America, Canada, Latin America, and Australia. The best players of rugby come from England, Wales, New Zealand, South Africa, etc.
Difference Between Rugby and American Football
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