American football and rugby share many things in common and have common origins. But they’re also very different sports. The action doesn’t happen at the same pace or in the same direction. There’s also the obvious fact that one is played with equipment and the other without. But does it automatically make rugby “tougher”? Let’s take a closer look at the toughness in both sports and see which one is truly the toughest.
Body Size Comparison
NFL players are giants by today’s standard, and many would automatically assume that they’re the largest competitive sport athletes in the world. However, one study that compared the average size and weight of New Zealand super rugby team players found that they were around the same weight, but a bit taller on average than NFL players. What tipped the balance in favour of the rugby team was the number of specialist athletes in football that might have smaller, lighter bodies.
But this is quite a small sample size for the rugby union side. If we take all rugby league players, they tend to be a bit shorter and about 17 to 26 pounds lighter. Extremely big football players make up for the smaller ones, however, so we would have to make it a draw.
Mental toughness is also something that needs to be accounted for in both sports. One of the things that make rugby so tough is the fanbase. Rugby fans are extremely demanding, and this can start taking a toll on the players, which is why so many rugby players and fans are known for their love of casino games. As a matter of fact, it’s not uncommon for fans to take over casinos after big wins.
While football fans are passionate as well, there seems to be more distance between them and the players. They also tend to be less involved in the personal lives of players. So, if we were to rank based on the toughness of the fanbase and the pressure players have to face, we give it to rugby.
Force of Impact
Now, which one between football and rugby involves the most violent contact? The main factor that we need to look at here is the force of impact, or G force. Both sports involve strong contact, but football takes the cake here. Football players can get hits 2.5 times as high as what the average rugby player will have to deal with. This mainly has to do with the fact that players often have to deal with head-on collisions from players running from across the field in football, such as in punt return situations, for instance. Strong head-on collisions are simply more common in football because of how the action is set up.
There’s also the fact that players wear padding. This might protect NFL players more, but it also means that opposing players can tackle with more abandon knowing they won’t get injured. So, we would have to give football a slight edge here.
At the end of the day, both football and rugby are some of the toughest games on earth. The debate between which is the toughest will probably never settle and be a subject of conversation for as long as both sports exist.