8 Ways American Football is Different from Rugby

Although they have many similarities, American football and rugby are played under very different sets of rules. Both sports include two opposing teams trying to move an inflatable, oblong ball across the field over to the opponents’ goal line.

The team’s goal without the ball is to stop the opposing side from scoring by recovering the ball or tackling the ball carrier. The number of participants, playing surface, types of equipment, when play is stopped, how far the ball can be moved, and how many points are awarded for different types of scoring are only some of the key distinctions between the many sports.

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1. Substitutions

In the top ranks of American football, the majority of players specialize in either offense or defense. Each time a team wins or loses control of the ball, 11 substitutes enter the game. In addition, between plays, a new player or players can enter the game. There is no restriction on making replacements during play, allowing for the presence of players who excel in a narrower set of skills.

In rugby, regardless of which team has ownership of the ball, both teams keep their players on the field. This necessitates a level of flexibility on both ends of the field from most players. Some players have to go the distance since teams only get so many subs per game.

2. Game Object

In American football, a touchdown represents a point scored by a team after advancing the ball past the other team’s touchline. A field goal is scored by kicking the ball through the posts.

Rugby’s goal is fairly similar, but scoring a try requires bringing the ball over the goal line after your team places it down. In certain situations, points can also be earned by kicking the ball through the goal posts.

3. Protection Gear

The most noticeable distinction is the player’s protective gear. It’s mandatory for all positions in American football. In rugby, there is a wide range of position-specific equipment.

When playing American football, a player is required to wear protective gear, including a helmet, elbow pads, shoulder pads, cleats, gloves, and protection for their hips and knees.

Rugby players have fewer protections and are thus more vulnerable. They cover their heads and bodies with helmets and armor. Equipment distinctions are strongly linked to variations in playing style.

4. Number of Players

You must be wondering how NFL teams come up with their roster. In a typical game of American football, there will be 11 players from each side on the field at the same time. The total number of players on the field may be different each time a different style of rugby is played.

This may cause the total number of players to fluctuate. In rugby union, each team is allowed 15, while in rugby league, they are only allowed 13. There are variations of rugby and football played with fewer players, such as rugby sevens and eight-man football.

5. Tackles

When a player is tackled in rugby, the ball must be given back to the other team. As a result, the game continues, and the ball is passed around. In football, however, a tackle signals the end of the play and allows the offense to set up for a new play.

In order to gain 10 yards, a team must use four attempts. If they don’t, the other team gets a go at it. To improve their field position, teams often punt on fourth down.

6. Playing Field

American football is played on a level playing field regardless of whether it is played at the university, high school, or professional level. A typical pitch is 100 yards in length and 74 to 76 yards in width.

Rugby fields, on the other hand, might have varying sizes depending on where you play. They are similar in size to American football fields but often longer and wider. Rugby fields are between 124 and 134 yards in length and 74 and 76 yards in width.

The size of the end zones in each sport is likewise distinct. The end zone in American football is 10, but in rugby, it ranges from 5.5 to 24 yards.

7. Time Limit

There is a halftime break following the second quarter in American football. Each quarter lasts for 15 minutes. In-game timeouts occur regularly between each play. Rugby matches consist of two 40-minute halves separated by a 10-minute halftime. Time only pauses for severe injuries.

8. Physical Requirements

As stated, players in American football need to wear protective gear like helmets and pads due to the high level of physical contact and violence in the game. Rugby is a contact sport that needs extreme physical exertion and only a mouthguard to participate in. To acquire some items, you must be quick on your feet, while others need brute force.


Both sports share commonalities and have their own unique characteristics. Fans of American football and rugby will remain steadfast in their support for their teams.

Many people have been avid fans of these games for years and have nothing but praise for the team’s players and coaches. These are the diehards who adore rugby despite its flaws and for whom every sentimental saying about the game resonates true. Therefore, trying to convince a rugby fan or a football fan would be a waste of time. They won’t be dissuaded from their passion for their chosen sports.