If you’re confused about how American football and Rugby are different, you’re not alone, as most people nowadays only know about the former.

Some even call rugby football, as they see it as football only with no armor on. But although they are very similar, there are a few key differences in how they are played. So let’s start with the former.

American football is a game played by two teams with 11 players each. In American football, substitutions are unlimited. It’s understandable, though, as it is an intense contact sport with a lot of physical play and complex strategy. The game is played by pushing the ball’s position towards the opponent’s end-zone.

On the other hand, Rugby is a complex mixture of American football and soccer. However, each team has 15 players in this sport, with the objective still the same as in American football, which is to advance the oval ball towards the opposing team’s end-zone. Still confused? Well, read on to know more about their differences.

Geographic Influence

Although American football is played across many different countries worldwide, most of the players are located in the US. On the other hand, Rugby has a far more extensive geographical spread. Rugby is popular across many European countries like Ireland, Wales, France, England, etc.

It’s also popular in the globe’s southern hemisphere like Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and Argentina. While some say that American football is much more popular because of the number of fans, bettors, and online bookmakers it has, like FanDuel Sportsbook, Rugby is the fastest growing team sport nowadays and will only be more popular in the future.


Although the objective, of course, of both games is to score more points than the other team, the execution is quite different. In American football, to score, the ball must be carried until the opponent’s touchline, which is called a touchdown. A team can also kick the ball towards the in-between of the goal posts, called a field goal.

The objective of Rugby is similar, which is also to have more points than the opposing team. However, not only should the ball be carried to the touchline, but the players must also place the ball down, which is called a try. The rest is quite similar to the other way of scoring: kick the ball between goal posts, called the drop, conversion, or penalty kick, depending on the circumstances.


At first glance, both of the sports balls are quite the same. However, rugby balls are about 27cm long and weigh about a pound, and the general shape is that of an oval. On the other hand, a football is longer, with 28cm in length and fewer ounces. Their balls are also more pointy and end with a seam, making them easier to throw.


In Rugby, substitutions are only allowed seven times depending on the game’s rules, which vary from time to time. Also, when a player leaves the field, they are not allowed to play in that game again unless the other subs are injured, or no other players are available. In American football, however, subs are unlimited.

Protective Equipment

Rugby players have minimal protective equipment despite how much contact the sport has. Most of the time, they are only allowed to have a gum piece as a mouth guard, and that’s all of it. The rest are their uniform clothing and shoes.

On the other hand, American football’s protective gear is quite intensive. The gear is composed of a helmet, chest pads, shoulder pads, leg protectors, and a mouth guard. Also, these gears of protection are not optional but, instead, mandatory.

Physical Contact

Of course, both teams have intense physical contact, and if you think that Rugby is more intensive, you’re right. This is mainly because Rugby only has a mouth guard for protection, leaving the players’ bodies unprotected during a tackle or any physical contact in the game.

However, impacts are often much greater in American football because you have to consider the amount of protection they are wearing, especially when tackling an opponent.

And speaking of tackles, rugby players tackle other players more often, averaging at around sixteen per game, compared to American football’s four per game.


Of course, let’s not forget about the field. As mentioned earlier, Rugby is a mixture of American football and soccer. While it is played like American football, Rugby also involves a lot of running due to the length of the field. Rugby’s pitches are 120m long and are wider by 70m compared to American football’s 109.73m long and 48.77m wide field.

Final Words

Some fans often argue which is better among these sports, but we can safely say that they are both fun and exciting. There’s no need to debate as they are quite similar in some aspects and how they are played. Both are intense and just as entertaining as the other.