They’re both called ‘olive ball’ here in China. But what are the differences between rugby and American football?
Most people will point out that American football players are covered in armor whereas rugby players simply wear a mouthpiece. Both are full contact sports which require intense ball carrying and tackling but there are many differences that make each sport quite unique.
First off, rugby is older and American football evolved from rugby’s core. So basics like tackling and scoring are similar. American football terms such as touchdown and field goal came directly from rugby in the 19th Century.
Here are the key differences:
Rugby is played by 15 per side. That’s 30 players on the pitch with only one referee. Players stay on the pitch the entire match playing offense and defense until they are taken out of the game. Once a player is substituted he cannot rejoin the match.
Football is 11 per side. Players are specialized and play only certain plays, can come in and out every play.
Rugby players run forward and pass backwards to advance the ball. No blocking or running out of bounds is allowed.
Football players can run forward or pass over the defense to advance the ball. Blocking assists the runner and running out of bounds allows the offense to retain possession of the ball.
Rugby players can kick as an attack and retain possession.
Football players usually kick to surrender possession.
Rugby is nonstop with quick restarts.
Football is full of stoppages, timeouts, and long breaks for quarters and injuries.
Scoring by touching the ball down in the end zone in rugby is 5 points followed by a 2 point kick.
Scoring by crossing the goal line of the end zone in football is 6 points followed by a 1 point kick.
A rugby penalty kick is 3 points and a drop goal taken during the play is also 3 points. Any player can kick.
An American football field goal is 3 points and is taken by the kicking specialist who usually does nothing else but this.
Rugby tackles turn into rucks and play continues.
Football tackles end the play and everyone has a chance to reset before the next play.
Rugby offers the defense many chances to win back the ball. After every tackle a ruck is formed where both teams try to force each other backwards to win the ball. Scrums and lineouts restart the match when the a foul has been committed or the ball has gone out of bounds. These both also allow the defense a chance to win the ball back.
Play is restarted in American football by snapping the ball to the quarterback. Referees reset the ball after each play.
Rugby players run around for 80 mins, tackle, kick, pass, and run. This means all sorts of body types are needed- tall skinny players, short round players, light quick players, etc. There is a position for everyone.
Football positions are specialized. A player who catches almost never will be asked to tackle. A passer will never have to kick, etc. There are positions that rarely have to run and most defenders never have to run with the ball, pass, catch, or kick.
Rugby games are 80 mins long with a short halftime and a running clock.
Football games are 60 mins long with breaks for each quarter. The clock stops for numerous reasons and each team can call time outs.
Overall, rugby is for all-around athletes where teamwork and on-field decision making win or lose games.
Football is more of a chess match between two coaches who call plays executed by specialized players good at their positions.
Come experience rugby in person here in Shenzhen. For more information please subscribe Shenzhen Dragons Rugby Club Wechat.