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Rugby vs. Football — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on May 17, 2024
Rugby involves continuous play with a focus on carrying, passing, and kicking an oval ball to score tries, while football (soccer) features a spherical ball primarily moved by kicking to score goals in a goalpost.
Rugby vs. Football — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Rugby and Football


Key Differences

Rugby is a full-contact sport played with an oval ball that can be carried, passed laterally or backward, and kicked. Teams aim to score tries by grounding the ball in the opponent's in-goal area or kicking it through goalposts. Football, known as soccer in the United States, is played with a spherical ball primarily moved by kicking. The objective is to score goals by getting the ball into the opponent’s net. Each team has 11 players, including a goalkeeper.
Rugby permits physical tackles and involves scrums, lineouts, and rucks as integral parts of the game. Players wear minimal protective gear, relying on physical conditioning and technique. Football, in contrast, emphasizes skillful footwork, passing, and strategic play. Players wear shin guards and are penalized for physical fouls.
Scoring in rugby includes tries, conversions, penalty kicks, and drop goals, each with different point values. In football, scoring is simply the number of goals made, with each goal counting as one point.
Rugby matches can be intense with continuous play and physical endurance. Football matches also demand high stamina but focus more on strategic positioning and ball control. The field dimensions and goal structures differ significantly between the two sports.

Comparison Chart

Ball Type


Main Objective

Score tries and kick goals
Score goals

Play Style

Continuous play with carrying, passing, and kicking
Continuous play with primarily kicking and passing

Scoring Methods

Tries, conversions, penalty kicks, drop goals
Goals only

Physical Contact

High, with tackles and scrums
Moderate, fouls for excessive contact

Protective Gear

Minimal (mouthguards, sometimes headgear)
Shin guards

Match Duration

80 minutes (two 40-minute halves)
90 minutes (two 45-minute halves)

Field Dimensions

Larger, with goalposts
Smaller, with nets

Team Size

15 players (Rugby Union), 13 players (Rugby League)
11 players

Key Features

Scrums, lineouts, rucks
Dribbling, passing, set pieces

Compare with Definitions


Involves physical tackles and scrums.
The team formed a strong scrum to win possession.


A sport played with a spherical ball aiming to score goals.
The striker scored the winning goal in the final minute.


Played in two 40-minute halves.
The rugby match was intense throughout the 80 minutes.


Scoring is based solely on goals made.
The final score was 3-2 in favor of the home team.


A full-contact sport with an oval ball focusing on tries and kicks.
Rugby players scored several tries during the match.


Emphasizes footwork, passing, and strategic play.
Effective passing led to an impressive goal.


Scoring includes tries, conversions, and penalty kicks.
A successful conversion added two points after the try.


Football is a family of team sports that involve, to varying degrees, kicking a ball to score a goal. Unqualified, the word football normally means the form of football that is the most popular where the word is used.


Features continuous play and strategic passing.
Quick passing helped them break through the defense.


Any of various forms of team game involving kicking (and in some cases also handling) a ball, in particular (in the UK) soccer or (in the US) American football
A football club
A football match


A game played by two teams of 15 players each on a rectangular field 110 yards long with goal lines and goal posts at either end, the object being to run with an oval ball across the opponent's goal line or kick it through the upper portion of the goal posts, with forward passing and time-outs not permitted.


A ball used in football, either round (as in soccer) or oval (as in rugby and American football) and typically made of leather or plastic and filled with compressed air.


A form of football in which players can hold or kick an ovoid ball; rugby football. The ball cannot be handled forwards and points are scored by touching the ball to the ground in the area past the opponent's territory or by kicking the ball between goalposts and over a crossbar.
The scrum is a distinctive element of rugby.
The two rugbies split following a debate about amateurism.


A briefcase containing authentication codes and other items that allow the US president to authorize a nuclear strike at any time
Wherever the president travels, a military aide stays close with the football
Whose fingers would we prefer to have on America's nuclear football?


(specifically) The form of the game known as rugby union (see the usage note).


A game played by two teams of 11 players each on a rectangular, 100-yard-long field with goal lines and goalposts at either end, the object being to gain possession of a ball and advance it in running or passing plays across the opponent's goal line or kick it through the air between the opponent's goalposts.


(countable) rugby shirt


The inflated oval ball, slightly pointed at both ends, that is used in this game.


(Philippines) Rubber cement, contact cement.




(intransitive) To play rugby.




A form of football played with an oval ball


The ball used in soccer or rugby.


(Informal) A problem or issue that is discussed among groups or persons without being settled
The issue of tax reform became a political football.


(general) A sport played on foot in which teams attempt to get a ball into a goal or zone defended by the other team.
Roman and medieval football matches were more violent than any modern type of football.


Association football: a game in which two teams each contend to get a round ball into the other team's goal primarily by kicking the ball. Known as soccer in Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.
Each team scored three goals when they played football.


American football: a game played on a field of 100 yards long and 53 1/3 yards wide in which two teams of 11 players attempt to get an ovoid ball to the end of each other's territory.
Each team scored two touchdowns when they played football.


Canadian football: a game played on a field of 110 yards long and 65 yards wide in which two teams of 12 players attempt to get an ovoid ball to the end of each other's territory.
They played football in the snow.


Australian rules football.


Gaelic football: a field game played with similar rules to hurling, but using hands and feet rather than a stick, and a ball, similar to, yet smaller than a soccer ball.


Rugby league.


Rugby union.


(countable) The ball used in any game called "football".
The player kicked the football.


(uncountable) Practice of these particular games, or techniques used in them.


An item of discussion, particularly in a back-and-forth manner
That budget item became a political football.


The leather briefcase containing classified nuclear war plans which is always near the US President.


To play football.


An inflated ball to be kicked in sport, usually made in India rubber, or a bladder incased in Leather.


The game played with a football{1}, by two opposing teams of players moving the ball between goals at opposite ends of a rectangular playing field. Outside the United States football refers to soccer, and in England, also to rugby, but in the United States the shape of the ball and the rules of the game are different.


Soccer or rugby.


Something which is treated in a rough manner, usually as part of a dispute; as, a political football.


Any of various games played with a ball (round or oval) in which two teams try to kick or carry or propel the ball into each other's goal


The inflated oblong ball used in playing American football


Played in two 45-minute halves.
The football match ended after 90 minutes of play.


Limited physical contact with fouls for excessive force.
The referee issued a yellow card for the foul.

Common Curiosities

How long is a rugby match?

A rugby match lasts 80 minutes, divided into two 40-minute halves.

What type of ball is used in rugby?

Rugby uses an oval-shaped ball.

What is the primary goal in football (soccer)?

The primary goal in football is to score goals by getting the ball into the opponent's net.

What is the main objective of rugby?

The main objective of rugby is to score tries and kick goals.

How long is a football match?

A football match lasts 90 minutes, divided into two 45-minute halves.

How many players are on a rugby team?

Rugby Union teams have 15 players, while Rugby League teams have 13 players.

How is scoring done in football?

Scoring in football is based on the number of goals made.

Is physical contact allowed in rugby?

Yes, rugby involves high physical contact with tackles and scrums.

What protective gear is worn in rugby?

Rugby players wear minimal protective gear, such as mouthguards and sometimes headgear.

What type of ball is used in football?

Football uses a spherical ball.

How many players are on a football team?

A football team has 11 players.

Is physical contact allowed in football?

Physical contact is limited in football, and excessive force results in fouls.

What are some key features of football?

Key features of football include dribbling, passing, and set pieces.

What is a scrum in rugby?

A scrum is a method of restarting play in rugby involving players packing closely together to gain possession.

What are some key features of rugby?

Key features of rugby include scrums, lineouts, and rucks.

What is a set piece in football?

A set piece in football is a planned play used during free kicks, corners, or throw-ins.

What protective gear is worn in football?

Football players wear shin guards for protection.

How is scoring done in rugby?

Scoring in rugby includes tries, conversions, penalty kicks, and drop goals.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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