A comparison of
American football and rugby union is possible because
of the games' shared origins, despite their dissimilarities.
A rugby union match from the
2011 Rugby World Cup
2011 Rugby World Cup showing the sport's
distinguishing feature: the ball carrier leads his team up-field,
passing backwards in the event of a tackle
American football professional game in 2007 showing the ball
carrier running behind his offensive lineman; he may lateral to avoid
a tackle, but this is exceptionally rare as possession is generally
guaranteed and a lateral that is fumbled or not recovered by a
teammate is likely to result in a turnover
1.2 Forward pass
1.3 Composition of teams
1.4 Duration of game
1.5 Game play
3.2.1 Boundary lines
3.2.2 Major interior lines
3.2.3 Minor transverse interior lines
3.2.4 Minor longitudinal interior lines
4 Advancing the ball
6 Tackles and blocks
10 See also
12 Notes and references
13 External links
In the event of a tackle in rugby the player may pass the ball behind
him provided he is not on the ground. If the tackled player is on the
ground, the ball must be released, allowing any other player
(including the opposition) to pick up the ball (usually a ruck forms)
and the play continues. In the event of a tackle in American Football
the play is concluded and the team on offense maintains possession
usually if either the ball was advanced past the first down marker
(resulting in a first down and a renewal of the down count) or else
the down count advances (although if the play was the fourth down play
and the ball is not advanced past the first down marker then the
defensive team would gain possession).
In rugby union, it is against the law to throw (pass) the ball in a
forward direction: a player in a position to receive such a pass would
in most cases be offside anyway. In American football, a player behind
the line of scrimmage (most often the quarterback) is permitted to
throw the ball forward from behind the line of scrimmage, provided
that only one forward pass may be attempted during each play. A player
can attempt a forward pass if he has already received a backwards
pass, provided he stays behind the line of scrimmage.
Composition of teams
Professional and most scholastic
American football team play has
evolved from a single team with all players except limited
substitutions playing the entire game, to a specialized "platoon"
system consisting of three separate units (offensive, defensive, and
"special teams" used for kicking and punting) with only one of the
three being on the field at a time. That is to say that in
professional American football, the majority of players play in only
one specialization (or "one side of the ball") – however, every
player is eligible to play in any specialization.
In rugby the teams are divided into eight forwards and seven backs.
Both groups of players partake in attacking and defensive plays and
are on the pitch at the same time. Only the eight forwards take part
in the "set pieces", which are ways to contest ball possession when
there is a minor rule infringement or the ball passes out of bounds.
These set pieces are scrums, tests of strength, and line outs. A
person's build and skill set determines which group they can play in.
All forwards must be heavy and strong to scrummage well but not so
heavy that they are too slow to partake in attacking plays. The backs
are lighter and faster and include the expert kickers. The forwards
numbered 1 to 8 are the players that need to have good all-round rugby
skills as well as speed and strength. In professional rugby there are
very few players who can play equally well in a variety of positions
and most will play in the same position from youth. Every position in
rugby has its own unique name (except for number 8) and associated
In most club and schoolhouse American Football, the majority of
players play both offense and defense, only being substituted for
injury. Substitutes in
American football can return to the game at any
stoppage in play. In rugby union, any player substituted off for any
reason, except for a 'blood' injury, is prohibited from returning to
the field of play (with the possible exception of front-row forwards).
Rugby teams may make up to seven substitutions. Each team must field
15 players at the start of each match. Players who are bleeding may
receive medical treatment off pitch and are replaced until they have
stopped bleeding. If the bleeding has not stopped after 15 minutes of
"real time", the player will be permanently substituted. This can be
down to officials' discretion, depending at which level the sport is
played, where only minor medical assistance is needed to make the
player fit to return to the field of play. Ejected players in American
football can be replaced with a substitute.
In rugby union there are two different punishments. A yellow card can
be shown for lesser infringements, which leads to the player being off
the pitch for 10 minutes whilst the team will play with one less
player for that duration. For more serious offenses, such as eye
gouging or stamping in some cases, players can be shown a red card,
which means they are off the pitch for the rest of the match and the
team plays the rest of the match with 14 players. Players who are red
carded automatically face a disciplinary hearing, and can be banned
for a period of time from one week to permanently depending on the
level of offence. Also, in a televised match, rugby union players can
be "cited" (by an independent citing commissioner) for an act of foul
play for which the referee did not send the player off. This means
that players who committed an act of foul play which the referee did
not see, or was more serious than the referee thought, still face a
disciplinary panel and possible suspension.
In American football, players are only disqualified for
Unsportsmanlike Conduct and related penalties (Fighting, Palpably
Unfair Acts, etc.). Players sent off in this fashion must be replaced
with another member of the team for the remainder of the game. In
addition, disqualified players may be fined (in the NFL) and/or
suspended (at all levels) for future games.
Duration of game
A rugby union game is divided into two halves of 40 minutes (or
shorter for lower-grade games, and breaks given halfway through each
half if playing conditions are considered to be extreme) separated by
a half time period of up to 15 minutes in an international match. Most
notably, a rugby union game will continue after the scheduled end of a
half (half-time or full-time) until the ball becomes dead - any
occurrence that would have play restart with a scrum or lineout, or
when a team scores. This has led to some "nail-biting" finishes where
teams losing by only a small margin work their way towards scoring,
and games can go on several minutes over time. Something similar can
occur at the end of either half in American football, though usually
for only a few seconds of additional time, because a play that begins
before the half expires continues until the ball is dead regardless of
whether there is any time left on the clock. In both sports, the clock
is also stopped during substitutions and for injuries, so the referee
does not need to add stoppage time as is done in soccer/Association
American football games are made up of four quarters of 15
minutes each (less at the high school and youth levels), but the clock
stops and starts according to specific rules, so that a 15-minute
quarter lasts much longer.
In the televised version of this sport (both professional and major
college level), the duration of such stoppages is often extended to
accommodate the airing of commercial advertisements; this does not
occur outside of the televised environment, where breaks in play are
comparable to those in rugby union. In addition to this, the half-time
break is typically 12 to 15 minutes; this intermission allows for
resetting of strategy in both rugby and
American football and
adjusting to the opponent's schemes. During the period entertainment
is played for the crowd, ranging from marching band performances in
high school and college games to big-name entertainment for the Super
Bowl (which usually has a longer-than-normal halftime in order to set
up and break down whatever stage the halftime performer(s) will use).
The entertainment in rugby varies from club to club but often includes
kicking competitions involving members of the crowd, or youth rugby
teams playing quick tournament games. Teams in the Super Rugby
competition in the Southern Hemisphere often have cheerleaders and
mascots; however, very few rugby union teams in the northern
hemisphere have cheerleaders.
In both sports, the essence of the game is to carry the ball over the
opponent's goal line (Rugby requires the ball to be placed on the
ground with downward pressure to score). In both sports the ball may
be passed backwards an unlimited number of times, but in American
football the ball may be passed forward once (and only once) as long
as the passer is behind the line of scrimmage, as opposed to rugby
union, where the ball cannot be passed forward but only kicked or
carried forward. Even when kicked, only the kicker or players behind
the kicker are allowed to catch or interfere with play.
In both sports, play is stopped when the ball goes out of bounds, when
a player or team commits a foul or after any scoring play. In American
football, play is also stopped when a player is ruled down or when a
forward pass falls incomplete.
The forward pass and the stoppage when a player with the ball is
downed results in short plays and a generally episodic game play in
American football, as opposed to the longer and more fluid passages of
play found in rugby union. If a player in rugby is tackled then the
ball must be released and any player arriving at the scene may pick up
the ball and run with it. If two or more opposing players arrive at
the same time then a ruck is formed and the players push each other to
get at the ball before play continues. Rugby therefore involves far
more running and less scrummaging than American football.
In rugby, kicking during the flow of the game is done for tactical
reasons (both offensive and defensive) or to score a goal. If the ball
is recovered by the kicking team, it can lead to significant
improvement in field position. It is also legal in rugby to kick at
goal at any point in the game. This is called a drop goal. In American
football, a team that kicks the ball during play automatically gives
up possession and cannot recover the ball unless an error in catching
the ball (aka "muff") is made by the receiving team; because of this,
punting is typically done only when teams do not expect to be able to
retain possession (i.e. on fourth down). Additionally, rule changes
made in the early 20th century mandated that field goals cannot be
made in front of the line of scrimmage; this has led to the demise of
the drop-kick field goal in American football. Catching and blocking
kicked balls are integral rugby skills.
Rugby union in the United States § History
Various forms of football have been played in Britain for centuries
with different villages and schools having their own traditional
The Football Association
The Football Association was formed in England in October 1863.
Differences of opinion about the proposed laws led to the formation of
the first governing body for rugby, the
Rugby Football Union
Rugby Football Union in 1871.
Laws were drawn up for rugby football which was now distinct from
Association football (soccer).
In 1872 rugby clubs were established in the
San Francisco Bay Area,
which were composed mainly of British expatriates. The first recorded
rugby match in the United States occurred on May 14, 1874 between
Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts and McGill University
of Montreal, Quebec when McGill challenged Harvard to a game using
rules in place at the Montreal campus.
In 1876, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia formed the
Intercollegiate Football Association, a competition based on the
traditional rules of rugby. The sport of
American football evolved
from these intercollegiate games (see History of American football).
Back in England, a schism developed between those who favoured
amateurism (southern English teams) and those who felt that players
should be compensated for time taken off work to play rugby (northern
teams). In 1895, this resulted in the formation of a break-away
governing body, the Northern Union. The schism in English rugby was
caused by several economic factors for the northern clubs which made
up the majority of the teams.
The Northern Union began to make changes to the laws of rugby in 1906,
which resulted in the sport of rugby league. The Rugby Football
Union's version of rugby became known as rugby union after its
governing body. Rugby is played in 120 countries, is extremely popular
in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, Italy, South Africa,
Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Uruguay, Madagascar, Kenya,
Namibia, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Japan.
American football is popular
almost exclusively in the United States and Canada.
Currently rugby has large national club championships (such as the
English Premiership, Top 14, Currie Cup), major continental club
championships (like the
European Rugby Champions Cup
European Rugby Champions Cup and Super Rugby)
and major international championships, highlighting the Rugby World
Cup, the 3rd most watched sporting event in the world. Gridiron
football major championships are limited to just national competitions
in the United States (NFL) and Canada (CFL), has recently been gaining
acceptance in European competition (
NFL Europe, which had its last
edition in 2007), and the only competition between national teams is
the IFAF World Championship, which is not considered a major event
when compared to the Olympic Games,
FIFA World Cup
FIFA World Cup and the Rugby World
The dimensions of an
American football field are measured in United
States customary units (essentially the same as British Imperial
Rugby union originally marked and quoted its measurements in
Imperial but converted to
Metric units in 1977. When these
conversions were made the measurements were generally adjusted to the
closest round-number measurement in the metric system.
Although both codes are played on similar sized rectangular fields,
the dimensions of rugby union fields can vary up to a maximum size
that is larger than the fixed size of
American football fields. Rugby
union fields are limited to a maximum length of 144 metres
(157 yd) long (100 metres (110 yd) between goal lines) and
width of 70 metres (77 yd), while
American football fields have a
fixed length of 120 yards (110 m) (100 yards (91 m) between
goal lines) and a width of 160 feet (49 m). The scoring end zone
American football has a fixed depth of 10 yards (9.1 m) whilst
in Rugby Union the goal area must be between a minimum depth of 10
metres (11 yd) and a maximum of 22 metres (24 yd) between
the goal line and the dead ball line at the rear of the field.
American football field is bordered by sidelines and end lines. A
rugby union pitch has touchlines and dead-ball lines respectively.
True to its rugby roots, the boundary lines in
American football are
also out of play (unlike in the majority of other sports where being
in contact with the line means that the player or ball is still
Major interior lines
In both rugby and
American football all the major interior lines run
transversely across the playing area.
The border between the regular field of play and a scoring zone in
both sports is called the goal line (though it is more commonly
referred to as the try line in rugby union).
The playing field of rugby is divided into halves by a halfway line.
American football field has a 50 yard line which is sometimes
referred to as the midfield line. On an
American football field there
are a further 18 solid yard lines crossing the field, marked at 5
yards (4.6 m) intervals between each goal-line and the 50 yard
line. These lines are named for the distance that they are from the
nearest goal line, for example 5 yard line, 10 yard line, 35 yard
Rugby union pitches have only two further solid lines
called the 22 metre lines. They are so called because they are marked
22 metres (24 yd) from the goal lines. This unusual distance
exists because rugby changed from
Imperial units to
Metric units in
1977; the line had previously been a 25-yard-line. Interestingly the
metric equivalent of 25 yards is 22.86 metres which should round to 23
metres; some sources argue that the reason for rounding down to 22
was to further restrict players within the 1968 25-yard line kicking
law; a rule that had been introduced to encourage more running play.
In rugby, the kickoff to begin each half and restarts after scores are
taken from the halfway line whereas in
American football these can be
taken from the 30, 35 or 40 yard line depending on if it is a college,
NFL or high-school game. The yard lines of
American football are
vitally important during game play because a team's advance is
measured against them which, in turn, determines possession of the
ball. The 22 metre lines in rugby union effectively divide the field
into approximate quarters (though not always as rugby pitches vary in
size; the total length of the field of play must not exceed 100m but
can be shorter than that if space is limited). The 22 metre lines
determine the position from which drop-outs are taken and also mark
the limit where a defending player may kick-the ball directly (without
bouncing) into touch without losing the ground gained by the kick.
Minor transverse interior lines
American football there is a 2 yard line (for
conversions), 15 yard line (for
NFL 1-point conversions) or 3 yard
line (college and high-school) which is sometimes called the PAT
(point after touchdown) line. This is a short line marked the
appropriate distance from the goal line directly in front of the posts
and is where the line of scrimmage forms when one team has scored and
is attempting a conversion. In rugby union there are two broken lines
that cross the whole pitch marked ten metres either side of the
halfway line. These are called the 10 metre lines and mark the minimum
distance restart kicks must travel and the forward limit of where the
receiving team can stand to receive these kicks.
American football there are also four hash marks (one near each
side line and a pair either side of the longitudinal center of the
field) marked every yard between the major transverse lines. Though
these technically run across the pitch they can more usefully be
regarded as longitudinal lines because each hash mark is only a yard
long and they are so numerous that they create more obvious pattern
down the field than across it (see below).
In rugby union there is a line five metres from the goal line
indicated by a series of six short dashes marked 5 metres in from
touch, 15 metres in from touch and directly in front of each post
(these are frequently called the five metre line though they
technically have no name the 5 metre lines are longitudinal lines 5
metres in from touch). These are marked to assist the referee because
no set-piece (scrum or line-out) may take place within five metres of
the goal line.
Minor longitudinal interior lines
As described above, in
American football there are four longitudinal
lines made up of yard-long hashes. These hash marks are marked at one
yard intervals between each yard line and parallel to them. They
further assist the umpires to determine how far the ball has been
advanced each down and the central pair also mark the widest point at
which any play may be initiated; all plays start with the ball on or
between the middle pair of hash marks. In professional football these
central hash marks are the same width as the goalposts (18 feet, 6
inches wide), in college football they are 40 feet apart and in high
school football they are 53 feet, 4 inches apart.
In rugby there are four longitudinal dotted lines. Two are marked 5
metres in from the touch lines and two a further ten metres in. These
are the 5 metre lines and 15 metre lines respectively. These are used
to determine where players making up the line-out are allowed to stand
before the throw-in. The five metre line also assists the referee
because scrums may not be set within five metres of the touch line.
Both codes also have goalposts at each end of the field: on the
goal-line in the case of rugby union; but further back in American
football on the back of the end zone.
American football goalposts consist of two vertical posts 18.5 feet
(5.6 m) apart (24 feet (7.3 m) in high school football)
rising from a horizontal crossbar mounted on single (usually) post
raising it 10 feet (3.0 m) off the ground (resulting in a
combined Y-shape of sorts). The single vertical support is offset to
the rear from the crossbar to remove it as far as possible from the
field of play; it is also usually padded to help keep players that run
into it from being injured. The goalposts in
American football used to
be on the goal line and H-shaped, but the end line and then offset
design were developed to reduce injuries that occurred when players
ran into the base poles (
Canadian football still has H-shaped goal
posts on the goal line).
Rugby union goalposts are 5.6 metres (18 ft) apart and extend
vertically from the ground being connected by a crossbar at 3 metres
(9.8 ft), creating an H-shape. In both cases, only kicks passing
between the uprights and above the crossbar score points. The scoring
areas of both types of goalposts are technically infinite as there is
no top boundary.
Advancing the ball
In American football, the team that is in possession of the ball, the
offense, has four downs to advance the ball 10 yards towards the
opponent's end zone. If the offense gains 10 yards, it gets another
set of four downs. If the offense fails to gain 10 yards after four
downs, it loses possession of the ball.
The ball is put into play by a snap. All players line up facing each
other at or behind the line of scrimmage. One offensive player, the
center, then passes (or "snaps") the ball between his legs to a
teammate, usually the quarterback.
Players can then advance the ball in two ways:
By running with the ball, also known as rushing. One ball-carrier can
hand the ball to another; this is known as a handoff. A ball-carrier
can also perform a lateral or backward pass as in Rugby.
By passing the ball forwards to a teammate as long as the passer is
behind the line of scrimmage.
A down ends, and the ball becomes dead, after any of the following:
The player with the ball is tackled.
A forward pass goes out of bounds or touches the ground before it is
caught. This is known as an incomplete pass. The ball is returned to
the original line of scrimmage for the next down.
The ball or the player with the ball goes out of bounds.
A team scores.
Rugby union is based on the 'right to contest possession'. A team is
not required to surrender possession when the ball carrier is tackled,
in contrast to American football, where a team must surrender their
possession when a player is tackled and no downs remain. Rugby union
players must win possession in open play, unless the team in
possession makes an infringement, scores, or the ball leaves the field
A team in rugby union can advance the ball in two ways:
By running forward with the ball. The ball carrier typically passes to
a teammate just before he is tackled, to permit another player to
continue the run towards the try line, thus quickly gaining ground.
The ball carrier cannot pass to any teammate that is closer to the try
line. This would be a forward pass, which is illegal. The player may
also attempt to form a maul and push their way to the try line.
By kicking the ball forwards and attempting to recover it. Only the
kicker or players behind the kicker are allowed to recover the ball
otherwise it is classed as a forward pass and a penalty awarded
(illegal in American Football, unless the ball is first touched by
another player). It is also possible to keep the ball within a scrum
(with the feet) & push the opposition backwards. This is normally
only attempted when a scrum has been set very close to the oppositions
In rugby the method of attack is typically decided by the person in
the number ten jersey (the flyhalf). Once the forwards gain possession
of the ball after a scrum, line out or ruck the ball is usually passed
to this player who is the midpoint between the forwards and the backs.
He/she must read the opposition's defensive strategy and calls a play
accordingly, either running, passing or kicking to other players.
After the set piece or ruck the no.10 is the first player who has time
to control the play and must therefore be an expert at a wide variety
of kicks and an expert passer. The rule differences mean that there
are a wider variety of kicks and kicking strategies in rugby compared
to American football.
Possession may change in different ways in both games:
When the ball is kicked to the opposing team; this can be done at any
time but it is normal to punt on the last down in American football
when out of field goal range.
Following an unsuccessful kick at goal.
When an opposing player intercepts a pass.
When the player in possession drops the ball and it is recovered by an
opposition player. This is called a fumble in American football.
In rugby union the opposition are awarded a scrum if the player in
possession drops the ball forwards or makes the ball go forwards with
any part of his body other than his feet and the opposition are unable
to gain an advantage from the lost possession. This is called a
In rugby union if the ball goes out of play, the opposition are
awarded a line-out, this is called ball back. However, if the ball was
kicked out of play as the result of the awarding of a penalty the team
that kicked the ball out throws the ball in. Both teams can contest in
American football possession changes hands following a successful
score with the scoring team kicking off to the opposition. In rugby
union the team who conceded the score must kick off to the team who
In American football, an automatic handover takes place when the team
in possession runs out of downs.
In both codes, tactical kicking is an important aspect of play. In
American football, it is normal to punt on the last down, but, as in
rugby union, a kick can take place at any phase of play.
In American football, the offense can throw the ball forward once on a
play from behind the line of scrimmage. The forward pass is a
distinguishing feature of American and
Canadian football as it is
strictly forbidden in rugby.
The ball can be thrown sideways or backwards without restriction in
both games. In
American football this is known as a lateral and is
much less common than in rugby union. However designed laterals (often
known as pitches) which take place behind the line of scrimmage are
quite common in
American football and are often a way that a ball is
transferred from the quarterback to a running back on sweep plays or
to a wide receiver on speed sweeps or a reverse.
In both codes, if the ball is caught by an opposition player this
results in an interception and possession changes hands.
Tackles and blocks
Further information: tackle (football move)
In both games it is permitted to bring down the player in possession
of the ball and prevent him or her from making forward progress. In
rugby, unlike in American football, the ball is still in play. Players
from either team can take possession of the ball. The tackled player
must present the ball (release the ball) so that open play can
Rugby union rules do not allow tackles above the plane of the
shoulders. Only the player who has possession of the ball can be
tackled. The attacker must also attempt to wrap his or her arms around
the player being tackled: merely pushing the player being tackled to
ground with a shoulder is illegal. If a maul or ruck is formed, a
player may not "ram" into the formation without first binding to the
In American football, tacklers are not required to wrap their arms
around the ball carrier before bringing him to the ground; in fact,
the ball carrier is often "tackled" by the defender taking a running
start and hitting the ball carrier to knock him to the ground. Tackles
can also be made by grabbing the ball carrier's jersey and pulling him
to the ground (though pulling down a ball carrier from behind by the
pads or jersey behind his neck is known as a "horse collar", a move
now illegal at all levels of the American game). If a ball carrier is
stopped for more than a few seconds, the referee can blow the whistle,
declare the player's forward progress stopped, and end the play even
though the ball carrier is not actually tackled to the ground.
In American football, players are allowed to 'block' players without
the ball. This is not permitted in rugby union and would be considered
'obstruction', resulting in a penalty.
A touchdown is the
American football equivalent of the rugby try.
Unlike American football, both codes of rugby require the ball to be
grounded, whereas in
American football it is sufficient for the ball
to enter the end zone (in-goal area) when in the possession of a
American football a touchdown scores 6 points; in rugby
union a try is worth 5 points.
Rugby also allows for a penalty try, awarded by the referee when he
believes that a try has been prevented by the defending team's
misconduct. In comparison,
American football allows the referee to
declare that a "Palpably unfair act" was committed by the defending
team: the referee is allowed in such a situation (at his discretion)
to award a score (most commonly a touchdown) or other penalty (in
amateur play, including forfeiture of the game). In practice, however,
such a call is extremely rare and limited to extreme circumstances,
such as a player who was not in the game at the start of the play
running off of the sidelines and tackling the player with the ball, as
was the case in the 1954 Cotton Bowl Classic. In high school football,
this can also be called if the defense commits repeated and
intentional fouls at the goal line.
In both games, following a try / touchdown, there is the opportunity
to score additional points by kicking the ball between the posts and
over the bar. In
American football this is called an extra point
(worth 1 point); in rugby union it is known as a conversion (worth 2
points). (The result is that both the touchdown/extra point
combination and the try/conversion combination, when successful, total
to 7 points.) One key difference between an extra point and a
conversion is that a conversion kick must be taken from a position in
line with where the try was scored, although the distance from the try
line from which the conversion kick is taken is not fixed. Hence, it
is advantageous to ground the ball under the posts rather than in the
corner which makes for a more difficult kick. Also, American football
features the option of the going for a 2-point conversion, where the
attacking team gets one chance from 3 yards out (2 in the NFL) to get
the ball in the endzone again. This would be worth 2 points on top of
the 6 already awarded for the touchdown. Plus, all American football,
except high school (all but Massachusetts & Texas), allows
conversion turnovers that are returned for touchdowns to be given 2
American football teams often opt to go for a field goal (worth 3
points) rather than attempt a touchdown, either because it is fourth
down and they don't want to risk a turnover or because it is late in
the game and the three points will either tie the game or put the team
ahead. The rugby equivalent is a drop goal (worth 3 points). The key
difference between a field goal and a drop goal is that a field goal
attempt is normally kicked with a teammate holding the ball, whereas
in rugby the ball must hit the ground and be kicked immediately as it
touches the ground.
In American football, a field goal is generally kicked from seven
yards behind the line of scrimmage, with the "holder" receiving a
"long snap" from the center. This is the optimum distance for a kick
to be made before the defensive team can break through the line of
scrimmage to block the kick. When calculating the distance of a kick,
one adds seven yards to the line of scrimmage, then adds ten more to
account for the end zone (as the goal posts are in the back of the end
zone) Therefore, if the line of scrimmage is the 20-yard line, a field
goal taken from there would be a 37-yard kick - the ball would be set
down for the kick at the 27, plus 10 yards for the end zone.
Because of the mechanics of the kick, field goals are only attempted
from a very specific range. In the modern
NFL any kick under 40 yards
is considered very makeable and should be converted by a competent
kicker. Kicks from 40-45 yards are considered more challenging, but
usually makeable, kicks from the 50 yard range are considered
difficult. Kicks from 55 or more yards are considered extremely
difficult, and are normally only attempted in dire situations at the
end of the game when the field goal would tie or win the game. The
record for longest field goal is 64 yards, which has been done once by
Matt Prater in 2013. A 65-yard kick by
Ola Kimrin was made during a
preseason exhibition game in 2002, but preseason games are not
included in record keeping. Notably, the 64- and the 65-yard kicks
were made in Denver, Colorado, where the elevation is 5,280 feet
A similar concept in rugby is the penalty goal. Following the award of
the penalty, the attacking team may opt to kick for goal rather than
advance the ball by hand or punting, or forming a scrum. This scores 3
points. The penalty goal is similar to a field goal in American
football in that the ball is kicked from the ground, but it cannot be
charged. There is no direct equivalent to a penalty goal in American
football. A rare play called a "fair catch kick" is analogous to a
goal from mark which existed in rugby union at one time.
American football has one further method of scoring which does not
exist in rugby. If the team with possession causes the ball to enter
its own endzone, and the ball carrier is then tackled while within the
endzone, then this results in a safety which scores 2 points for the
non-possessing team and then requires the possessing team to give up
the ball by kicking to its opponent. In rugby union this does not
score any points but results in a scrum 5 meters from the try zone
with the team that didn't put the ball into the in-goal area putting
the ball in.
In rugby, If the ball is put past the try line by the attacking team,
into the in-goal area, by means of kicking, passing or running and the
receiving team grounds it or makes it dead immediately, a drop kick
from the 22-metre line ensues. In American football, if a kick-off or
punt goes into the endzone and the receiving team downs it without
leaving the endzone, the result is a "touch back" and the receiving
team gains possession of the ball at their own 20-yard (25 yard line
in College Football) line.
An important difference between the two sports involves the aftermath
of a score. In American football, the scoring team kicks off, except
after a safety. In rugby union, the team conceding the score kicks off
(in rugby sevens, a variant of rugby union featuring seven players per
side, the scoring team kicks off).
American football positions and Rugby union
American football team consists of an offensive unit, a defensive
unit and a "special teams" unit (involved in kicking and kick
returns). Only eleven players can be on the field at any time. Players
are allowed to play on more than one of the units, this is the norm
for all but the highest levels of play (professional and large
schools). The kicking unit, with the exception of a few specialists,
will usually be made up of reserve players from the offense and
In rugby union, the same players have to both defend and attack. There
are fifteen players in a rugby union team (except in sevens and tens).
Many of the positions in each code have similar names, but, in
practice, the roles of those positions can be different. A fullback in
American football is very different from a fullback in rugby. Some of
the positions are fairly similar; a Rugby fly-half carries out a
similar role to a quarterback in American football; however,
quarterbacks touch the ball on almost every offensive play.
Broadly speaking linemen and linebackers in American football
correspond to forwards in rugby, and running backs, receivers, and
quarterbacks have roles similar to backs in rugby.
Because of the playing time, number of pauses, number of players and
the nature of the game in general, rugby players will typically need
higher physical endurance than
American football players while more
short-term bursts of physical strength, power, and speed will be
American football (amongst equivalent positions and
weights). Collisions between players in
American football tend to
cause greater injury than in rugby union; in rugby union tackles must
at least show an attempt to bind is made but this rule does not apply
to American football. Moreover, rugby union hits are not usually at
the speed of
American football both because of the nature of the game
and the lack of protective equipment. Additionally, rugby offsides
rules and the lack of a forward pass significantly reduce the chance
of a player receiving a "blind-side" hit (i.e. being hit and/or
tackled from behind). In American football, players receiving a
forward pass are often extremely vulnerable because they must
concentrate on catching the ball, often jumping very high or
stretching out and thereby exposing their body to punishing hits; in
rugby a player is not allowed to be tackled in the air, leaving the
receiver of the kick with more time to assess his surroundings,
usually in rugby ball carriers can anticipate a hit and can brace
In rugby, the contact times between players are usually much longer,
as a more wrestling approach is required to bring players down, as
momentum cannot always be relied upon particularly when the lines
between the teams are consistently close, not allowing for significant
momentum to be developed before meeting a defender. In rugby, rucks
and mauls may develop following a tackle when multiple players from
each team bind together to move the ball in play (on the ground or
in-hand respectively). In American football, equivalents to rucks and
mauls are virtually non existent, as play stops when the ball is
stopped. These difference can be summed up in the idea that in
American football the objective is to bring the player to ground or to
disrupt a pass to end the play, whereas in rugby the main objective is
to stop the player from breaking the line.
American football quarterbacks, linebackers, - and increasingly, their
coaches - have the ability to decide what the next play would be in
many occasions during the game, thus allowing for both complex tactics
displayed within individual plays and overall game-wide strategy in
play calling and play selection. In rugby union, the continuous nature
of the game implies that there is no time to discuss team strategy,
therefore offensive actions may seem to lack a definite direction for
some periods of time. Rugby is more movement based than American
football in which short bursts are needed.
Rugby players often continue to participate in the game long after
they have left school. In America, amateurs who have left school
rarely play full tackle football, but often play touch football or
Rugby union players are allowed to wear modest padding on the head,
shoulders and collarbone, but it must be sufficiently light, thin and
compressible to meet
World Rugby standards, and the vast majority of
players play with only a gumshield for protection. Protective headgear
is becoming more popular with players with a history of concussion or
who wish to protect their ears from damage (usually front or second
rows). Hard plastic or metal are prohibited in rugby kit. This
includes hard plastic shin guards. No form of metal is allowed in any
rugby kit, except for World Rugby-approved soft aluminium studs on
The prohibition of metal resulted in one of the most unusual pieces of
protective gear ever seen in any sport in a 2010 Heineken Cup
semifinal between Biarritz and Munster. Biarritz star Imanol
Harinordoquy had suffered a broken nose in a domestic encounter with
Racing Métro's Sébastien Chabal, and had undergone surgery to repair
it. He received approval to wear a mask to protect the injury, but
had to have the frame covered by more than 2 inches (5.1 cm) of
foam padding; at least one journalist likened Harinordoquy to the Man
in the Iron Mask.
Often considered an essential (though not mandatory) part of the
safety equipment needed for rugby is the gumshield or mouthguard.
Players also have the option to use fingerless gloves which have been
introduced recently to the game allowing players to better grip the
American football players wear much bulkier protective equipment, such
as a padded plastic helmet, shoulder pads, hip pads and knee pads.
These protective pads were introduced decades ago and have improved
ever since to help minimize lasting injury to players. An American
football helmet consists of a hard plastic top with thick padding on
the inside, a facemask made of one or more metal bars, and a chinstrap
used to secure the helmet. An unintended consequence of all the safety
equipment has resulted in increasing levels of force in the game
which, unprotected and in current form, would now be extremely
dangerous. An example of this is the trend for players tackling head
first rather than leading with a shoulder, which has led to some
serious neck injuries, including breaks, even with the helmets used.
In previous years with less padding, tackling more closely resembled
tackles in rugby union, with less severe impacts and less severe
structural injuries.
Comparison of Canadian and American football
American football and rugby league
Comparison of rugby league and rugby union
Players who have converted from one football code to another
HS Rugby Ban: Inattention To Safety?
Coaching Strength or size - which is the significant component for
Notes and references
^ a b http://www.espnscrum.com/scrum/rugby/story/116127.html
^ Jones, Stephen (2010-05-02). "Biarritz bank on Imanol Harinordoquy
in today's big semi-final". The Times. Retrieved 2010-08-28.
^ Gallagher, Brendan (2010-05-15). "
Imanol Harinordoquy tests the pain
barrier in search of Heineken Cup glory". telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved
2010-08-28. The article features a photo of Harinordoquy in the
NFL's Digest of Rules
The Laws of Rugby Union
Comparison of football codes
Australian rules football
NFL and NCAA
Australian rules football
Australian rules football
Australian rules football
Australian rules football
Australian rules football
Australian rules football
Australian rules football