Why is rugby more physical than football?

Updated: 9/27/2023
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14y ago

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Gridiron is one dimensional as players only learn one skill. Rugby union/league demands players learn a vast array of skills in order to play the game.

Gridiron is made up of mere set plays rather than tactics and has no creativity.

As gridiron was invented to avoid global competition then it is inherently a lesser sport than rugby union or league.


While gridiron requires greater specialization in general (one cannot generally switch from position to position), it does not require that each player on the field have a fairly decent grasp of all abilities (occasionally a back or scrumhalf may need to ruck or maul). Also gridiron players play for only about 10-12 minutes in each game (being generous) while a rugby player will play for the entire 80 minutes (probably around 70-75 minutes when taking pauses in play into account), and thus, rugby players must focus for longer. Also kicking in rugby (which ALL backs must be able to do), is much more difficult. Drop-kicks anyone? --------------------------------- It depends what you define skill as. Rugby requires a lot more mental strength. You need to be switched on and focused for the full eighty minutes or you won't have a fun game. Passing and kicking in rugby is also a lot harder to master. So in my opinion, having played eight years, and having seen rugby players play gridiron , and gridiron players play rugby, there is a lot more skill envolved in rugby.

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15y ago
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12y ago

Football is derived from rugby football union (hence the name football). However, inclusion of things such as blocking, the forward pass, and stoppage of play have greatly changed the game.

Note: If someone who knows rugby league better wants to add more info about that feel free.

The Ball: A rugby ball is oval shaped but lacks a sharp point at either end and is much wider than a football. Thus, a rugby ball is easier to kick but harder to throw (at least football style).

The Playing Field: A rugby field is 100 meters (109.36 yds) from try-zone to try-zone (think end zone if you don't know rugby) while a football field is 100 yards (91.44 m). A rugby field is about 68?m (74.37 yds) wide while a football field is 53.3 yards (48.77 m). The size reflects the need for running space in a rugby game.

The Uprights/Goals: A football upright is about 10 feet almost the exact same height as a rugby upright (which is 3 meters or 9.84 feet). A rugby upright (which has two posts into the ground) is at the beginning of the try zone, while a football upright is generally at the end.

Equipment: Football players wear padding (including a helmet with a faceguard/facemask, shoulder, chest, and back pads, and thigh pads), a mouthguard, and a jersey, knickers (if you'll excuse the Fencing term), long socks and cleats. Rugby players, in general, wear a jersey, mouthguard, spandex, tight and durable shorts (they need to support your body weight if you get lifted), long socks, and cleats. Rugby players may also wear a scrumcap (padded headgear actually meant to protect your head, and ears, from being squished or otherwise injured during a scrum) and lightly padded shirt (padding allowed only for the shoulders except in girl's/women's shirts which allow for some chest protection). In both sports extra tape, braces (which must contain NO hard edges for rugby), and gloves may also be worn.

The Padding Debate: Just because this comes up everywhere and has been beaten to death... Football players hit harder on average (remember many football tackles are illegal especially in union play) and blindside each other much more often (due mostly to the inclusion of blocking). Because of the danger of getting hit when you don't see it coming, padding was included to make the sport safer. It is important to know that football players hit harder BECAUSE they have padding (not the other way around).

Tackling: In rugby (union) players must wrap (hold onto) the player they tackle for it to actually count. In football, you only need to knock the player down. After the tackle in rugby union play continues (normally the ball is contested through a ruck). In league, play stops until the tackled player gets up and starts play again. In football, play stops, a play clock is started, and the players have a set amount of time (some amount of time greater than 30 seconds) to start play again once the ref has placed the ball.

Out of bounds/Into touch: In rugby union if a player runs out of bounds with the ball, or kicks it out (except in the case of a penalty) the other team is awarded a lineout (think of a soccer throw in with an offside line where you can lift your teammate into the air). In football, the play stops and the clock is stopped, the ball is spotted (placed) at that distance near the middle and the play clock starts (the one that tells the offense how long they have to start the next play).

Delay of Game: In rugby, if one team takes too long to start play again (this is at the ref's discretion) a penalty is awarded to the other team. In football, if the team on offense fails to start play by the time the play clock reaches zero that team is penalized ten yards and a new play clock starts.

Penalties: In rugby, if a team commits a minor penalty (offsides, knock-on, basically anything that isn't really bad) the ref will give the non-offending team "advantage". Advantage means that play will continue unless, the other team gains advantage (prevents the other team from gaining ground or gets the ball) or the non-offending team commits a penalty, play continues as usual until the ref decides advantage is over. If the ref decides there is no advantage, he will stop play and award a penalty. The non-offending team then has several options such as a scrum for them (they get to "feed" the ball in), a punt (which, if kicked into touch, as it normally is, gives them a lineout at the spot the ball went out at), a kick at goal, or to simply run (a player must gently "kick" it to start this run). In football, a flag is thrown (yellow) and after the play the offending team is penalized (usually by loss of yardage, and/or loss/gain of down). The number of yards is normally five or ten.

Fouls: In rugby, the offending player is sent to the "sin bin" for ten minutes and their team must play down one man. The other team is also awarded a penalty. In rare cases the player may be ejected permanently. In football, a personal foul is a fifteen yard penalty (They may also be ejected for more egregious penalties such a punching another player).

Downs: In rugby union, there are no downs. Assuming the ball stays in play and no penalties or fouls are committed, one team could technically hold the ball for an unlimited amount of time regardless of field position (assuming they are not in a try-zone) so long as they do not turn over the ball. In rugby league, a team in position has six attempts (don't know what they're called) to score. Each attempt ends when the ball carrier is tackled. In football, the offense has 4 tries (called downs) to advance 10 yards. If they fail to do so the ball is turned over (normally they punt on fourth down for better field position).

Kicking: In rugby union, the ball may be kicked at any time. During play the kick most often seen is a punt. This can come in three forms; a long punt to gain yards, a short punt meant to be fielded by the kicker (used to get past the defense), or a moderate kick meant to be fielded by the kicker's team (useful either for field position or getting past the defense). Another common kick is the drop kick (no longer used in football). The drop kick can be made anytime during play (and also starts off the game) and is used to score a goal (for three points) through the uprights. This kick is a drop out of the hands of the ball carrier which MUST TOUCH THE GROUND before it is kicked. The last kick, a place kick, is taken after penalties or tries (worth 3 as a penalty and 2 after a try in union). The ball is placed and can be positioned using either a tee, sand, or sawdust. In football, a kick may only occur as a set piece (special play). The drop kick has fallen out of favor (due to the football's nasty habit of unpredictability). Instead a place kick starts the game (using a tee). Place kicks (using a person holding the ball) are used to score field goals (worth 3 points). And punts are used to gain yards (as mentioned before).

Scrums: This is exclusive to rugby. After certain penalties a scrum may be awarded. Both teams forwards form up. Front row consists of two props/locks and a hooker (the person who kicks the ball back towards his team), Second row locks their heads in between the hips of the front row (hence the scrumcaps), flankers (one on each side) bind to the second rows and try to prevent anyone from running close to the scrum, and the #8 (aka 8-man) sticks to the back (behind the second rows). Both teams collide and once the ball is put in they vie for control by trying to push the other team.

Rucks and Mauls: In rugby union, after a tackle, players from both teams will fight for the ball by stepping over it and pushing (this is generally won by the offense). This is called a ruck. The scrumhalf then takes the ball and feeds it to the backs (normally). Mauls occur when the tackler fails to get the ball carrier to the ground but manages to hold them. Basically, both teams forwards, start to gain better position (meters) and the ball is eventually fed to the scrumhalf who passes it to the backs. If the ball fail to come out of either a ruck or a maul a penalty is awarded.

Lineouts: When the ball goes into touch, the fowards line up and the hooker throws the ball in. This throw normally goes to a player who has been lifted into the air. It is illegal to attempt to pull the player down while they are in the air due to safety concerns.

Offsides: In rugby union, the offsides line moves with the ball. During a ruck, scrum, or maul the offside line (for the backs) is the last foot (the foot of the farthest back player involved in the ruck, scrum, or maul. During a lineout the backs must stay back ten meters until the lineout is deemed over (either the ball has left the lineout, a ruck is formed, or a maul, if formed, has been driven one meter in either direction). In football this line exists only until the ball has been snapped (play has started) and all players (excepting the center who must snap the ball) must stay a suitable distance from the line.

Blocking: No blocking is allowed in rugby. Getting in the way of an opposition player when you are offsides (ahead of the ball) is called obstruction. In football, a player may block another player from tackling so long as he does not block from behind. This is called clipping.

The Backward and Foward Pass: In rugby, the ball must be passed laterally or backwards (although the ball is rarely passed laterally except by accident because it is too close to a forward pass). Passes in rugby are done with both hands either popping the ball up for a player to run on to or spinning it to a teammate (ball should be close to vertical and not spinning end over end). Forward passes are illegal as is knocking the ball on (basically if the ball moves forward of where you let go of it and touches either the ground or another player before you recover it you will be penalized). In football, the forward pass is an integral part of the game and the ball is more often handed-off than tossed. Only one forward pass may be made per play and the pass must be made from behind the "line of scrimmage" (the line denoting offside before the ball was snapped). The ball is thrown such that it spins in the air horizontally (the most aerodynamic orientation) to the target.

Carrying the Ball: In rugby, the ball is generally carried in both hands so that the ball may be more easily passed quickly and also for better security. In football, the ball is generally tucked in one arm unless the ball carrier is approaching several defenders at which time it is normally covered with both hands and held to the chest or stomach. The quarterback (the passer) generally holds the ball in easy position to throw the ball forward even when scrambling (running).

Playing Time: A rugby game is split into two halves of 40 minutes each. A football game is split into 4 quarters of 15 minutes each. While a rugby player generally plays the entire game (that's roughly 70 minutes if you think about the short pauses during play), a football player plays a significantly shorter amount of time (and thus stresses short bursts instead of endurance). Considering there are separate teams for offense, defense, and special teams (punting, kicking, etc) and that there is a great deal of stoppage time (since the clock continues to run if play stops unless the ball carrier went out of bounds or there was an incomplete pass) a football player plays less than a quarter of each games full stated time (around 12 minutes to be generous) and gets several breathers throughout.

Positions: Too lazy to list football positions someone else can do that.

Rugby positions are split into two groups, fowards and backs. Each player wears the number corresponding to their position (sub wear numbers 16 and up).

Fowards: I briefly explained the positions of the fowards in the scrum already so I'll skip to general attributes.

#1 and 3 - Props: These are generally slower but stronger players and are one of the most specialized positions (excepting scrumhalf and flyhalf) due to the necessity of not killing everyone in a scrum (the scrum collapses and everyone in the front row will have a very bad day, or a broken neck).

#2 - Hooker: Also slower and stronger. Another specialized position both because of the skill for "hooking" the ball and just being in the front row.

#4 and 5 - Second Row: Tall, big, and very strong. The real power in a scrum. These players run over everything, except the other second rows.

#6 and 7 - Flankers: The fastest fowards on the team. These are fast moving and hard hitting. They try to put pressure on the opposing flyhalf and prevent people coming around the side of scrums. Should be the first to any breakdown (ruck or maul).

#8 - 8-man: Fairly fast and good strength. Helps push and occasionally runs for short gains.

#9 - Scrumhalf: The leader of the fowards. Doesn't involve himself in the breakdowns or scrums (when possible). instead this player is in charge of digging the ball out from a dogpile and either running with it, kicking it, passing it to a forward, or, most commonly, passing to the flyhaf or wing. Also responsible for harassing the opposing scrumhalf... all game.

Backs: These are the try-scorers, normally. Faster and lighter than most fowards (with the exception of possibly the flankers) these players are called upon to run down the field and kick (which every back should know how to do). And must be able to take down their opposing number.

#10 - Flyhalf: Extremely important playmaker. Calls set pieces (plays) on the fly and leads the backs. Needs to be very good at kicking (both the punt and drop kick).

#11 and 14 - Wings: Think wide receiver. These must be extremely fast and should be the fastest on the field excepting only the fullback (maybe). They are responsible for chasing down kicks.

#12 and 13 - Inside and Outside Center: These are moderately quick. They take the majority of tackles and should know set pieces very well.

#15 - Fullback: One of the most difficult positions on the field. This player needs to be able to understand the flow of the game to know when best to insert himself into play. Should be fast and strong. It is a must that this player is an extremely good tackler as he will be the last line of defense if a player breaks through.

Backs take up a slanted formation for the backwards pass when on offense. On defense The line up flat so that they can tackle everybody on the line almost simultaneously (can't actually do that put if the pass goes out to the wings quickly or skips a player they need to come up even or the offense will run right through them).

The fullback lines up behind to the side the backs are currently on and the wings never change sides of the field (one on each side).

That's all I can think of right now.

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14y ago

Rugby is a complete contact sport. A tackle in football is supposed to be contact free where in rugby, fully body contact is required, the players are expected to use their body as a battering ram (especially the forwards) - the rucking is done with the feet which means that there is high chance of injury. Rugby players don't wear protection

like football players, therefore are much more vulnerable to injuries and concussions.

Rugby is a much more continuous than football which has much more stoppages, altough some of the hits of football are quite hard, but everytime some one is tackled

the game stops. Look at the rugby scrum, which is much more physical than a ruck.

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12y ago

It's like football.... do you know why football is violent?

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