Difference Between American Football And Rugby

Many people are unaware that there are differences between these two sports. American Football and Rugby are two completely different games. There aren’t many similarities between the game, everything from field size to rules varies. Although for those who don’t know much about sports, they may seem similar, the truth is that there is a difference between American Football and Rugby. American Football And Rugby have the same origin and, therefore, are very similar in many ways.

The differences are mainly due to the type of rules and regulations that govern the development of the game, differences that will be pointed out in this article after showing a brief definition of each one.

Difference Between American Football And Rugby

In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between American football and rugby to help you better understand these two exciting sports.

What’s The Difference Between American Football And Rugby?

Rugby and American Football are two sports that have certain similarities, such as physical contact and the use of an oval ball, but also have significant differences in terms of rules, game structure, and style of play.

American Football VS Rugby


In the 19th century mid, there were several games in Great Britain in which a ball was kicked into a goal or over a line. These games evolved, on the one hand, into rugby, which is played with an oval ball, and on the other, into association football, also known as soccer in countries like the United States or simply football in Europe, in which a spherical ball is used.

In 1880, Yale graduate and professional player Walter Camp proposed several new rules and modifications that definitively separated American football from rugby. This is why he is considered the father of American football. Other modifications have been progressively added, although professional leagues of this sport have existed since 1892.

What is American Football?

It is a very famous team sport game in the United States and some other parts of the world. American football is a sport that lasts one hour and includes 11 players on a field. The two teams line up facing each other at the start of the game. The receiving player can run with the ball or pass it. Each team has to move the ball 10 yards on four down, if they fail the ball is given to the opposing team, if they pass they have another chance to move the ball another 10 yards.

Key Features of American Football:

  • Playing field: Played on a rectangular field with marked yard lines. The field is divided into four quarters of play, and the objective is to advance the ball towards the opposing team’s end zone.
  • Oval ball: A peculiarly shaped oval ball is used, different from the round ball used in most sports.
  • Teams: Each team is made up of 11 players on the field at any given time. There are offensive and defensive teams that alternate depending on whether they have the ball or are defending.
  • Scoring: Points can be scored in a variety of ways, but the primary method is to get the ball into the opposing team’s end zone, known as a “touchdown.” Additional points can also be scored through kicks or conversion plays.
  • Physical Contact: American Football is a physical contact sport in which blocking and tackling are allowed. Player protection is important, and players wear helmets, shoulder pads, and other protective equipment.
  • Strategy: The game involves a lot of strategy and tactics. Teams design plays and tactics for both offense and defense.
  • Stops and Possession: Play stops on specific plays, such as when the ball goes out of bounds or when a goal is achieved. Each team has four chances (downs) to advance a certain distance, leading to strategic decisions about whether to kick the ball or try to advance.
  • Competitions: American Football is played in various leagues and competitions at the local, collegiate and professional levels. The National Football League (NFL) of the United States is the most well-known and followed professional league.

What is Rugby?

Rugby is played around the world and is characterized by its high physical contact and emphasis on sporting camaraderie.

Rugby is a game that lasts 80 minutes and does not include timeouts. However, the referee can keep time and stop time during substitutions or injuries. A rugby union team may have 15 players on the field at the time of play. The match begins with the kickoff and the teams fight for possession of the ball.

Key Features Of Rugby:

  1. Physical fitness: Rugby is a very physical sport in which players need strength, endurance and technical skills. It is played on a rectangular field with two teams made up of fifteen players each.
  2. Oval ball: Unlike the round ball used in football (soccer), Rugby is played with an oval ball that can be passed from hand to hand or kicked across the field.
  3. Scoring points: The main objective is to score points by taking the ball to the opposing team’s goal area and placing it on the ground, which is called a “try.” Additional points can also be scored by kicking through the posts.
  4. Continuous play: Unlike some sports in which play stops after each play, Rugby is a continuous play sport. Play continues after a tackle, with teams competing to maintain possession of the ball and advance toward the goal area.
  5. Various forms: Rugby is played in various forms, the most popular being Rugby Union and Rugby League. Each variant has its own rules and game structures.
  6. Values ​​and respect: Rugby promotes values ​​such as respect, integrity, camaraderie and sportsmanship. Players show respect for referees and their opponents, which is an integral part of the culture of the sport.
  7. International Competition: Rugby is played at an international level with national teams competing in major tournaments such as the Rugby World Cup. In addition, club competitions are also played at national and international level.

Comparative Table Between American Football And Rugby

Aspect Rugby Football
Ball shape Oval Oval
Number of players 15 (Rugby Union), 13 (Rugby League) 11
Game duration 80 minutes (Rugby Union), 80 minutes (Rugby League) 60 minutes (regulation time)
Protective equipment Minimal equipment, often just mouthguards Helmets, shoulder pads, mouth guards, knee pads, and other protective equipment
Advance rules Continuous passes and runs, without downs Downs and stops after each play
Annotation forms Try (scoring in the in-goal zone), conversions, field goals Touchdown (score in the end zone), conversions, field goals, safeties
Stops in the game Minimal stops, continuous play Stops after each play, discontinuous play
Strategy More fluid and continuous gameplay, with less tactical strategy during the game Highly strategic game with planned strategies and frequent player changes
Popularity Popular in various parts of the world, with a focus on countries such as New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, England and France Predominant in the United States, with the NFL as the most prominent professional league

Key Points Discussion:

  1. In American football, 11 players play on the field of play on each team.
  2. In rugby, 15 or 13 players can play on the field of play on each team.
  3. Normally, in American football, there are 100 yards which is equivalent to 91.44 m.
  4. rugby fields measure 100 meters from one goalpost.
  5. In rugby, the goalposts are H-shaped with the crossbar located 3 m high and the posts are 5.6 m apart.
  6. While in American football, despite also having an H shape, They feature the crossbar located 10 feet (3.05 m) high, and the posts are spaced 18.5 feet (5.64 m) and in some cases 23.33 feet (7.11 m) apart.
  7. Regarding duration, a standard rugby match consists of two halves of 40 minutes each while the duration of an American football match is divided into four quarters of 15 minutes.

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