What Is The Difference Between Rugby And Australian Rules Football?

Rugby and Australian rules football are both very popular sports in Australia. The two sports share the same similarities but there are numerous differences which result in the game being very distinct. In this article we will explore all the differences between two of the top sports down under.

What is the difference between rugby and Australian rules football?

Rugby is primarily a running with ball in possession game while Australian rules is primarily a kicking game. In rugby players score by grounding the ball over the try line while in Aussie rules players score by kicking a goal.

Australian rules is played over four twenty minute quarters while a rugby match is played over two 40 minute halves. Australian rules is played on an oval while rugby is played on a rectangular field. The Australian rules ball is longer and thinner than a rugby ball. There is no offside in Australian rules.

Can You Run With The Ball In Australian Rules?

Yes, you can run with the ball in Australian rules however, you must bounce the ball like a basketball player, once every 15m. Aussie rules players often opt to kick the ball instead of running as it is a faster and more efficient way to gain territory and set scoring opportunities.

A major difference between Aussie rules and rugby is that rugby players are free to run with the ball as long as they want. Whereas Aussie rules players must bounce the ball once every 15m they run. This rule incentivises Aussie rules players to kick the ball rather than run.

How Do You Score In Australian Rules?

To score in Australian rules you either kick a goal between the two middle goal posts which is worth 6 points or you kick a behind between the two outer goal posts which are worth 1 point. If the ball is knocked through the goal posts by a hand that also counts as a behind and scores 1 point.

The scoring system is very different between rugby and Australian rules. In rugby the top score is awarded for a try where a player crosses the opposition’s try line and grounds the ball. This is worth 5 points. Aussie rules does not have tries. Aussie rules version of a try is a goal which is awarded by kicking the ball through the middle goal posts and which scores 6 points.

Even though you can kick goals in rugby it is a secondary score. Also the way in which you kick goals in rugby is different to Aussie rules. In Aussie rules you can kick the ball anyway you like as long you make contact with the ball with your foot and it travels through the goal posts it counts. In rugby to score points for a kick in open play you need to bounce the ball off the ground first before striking it. The ball not only has to travel through the goal posts but it has to clear the crossbar.

 In rugby, players can also kick goals after penalties awarded. To score from a penalty rugby players have to place the ball on a tee and then get a free shot at goal.

How Long Is An Aussie Rules Game?

An Aussie rules game consists of four 20 minute quarters with a 30 minute break after the conclusion of the second quarter. As the referees regularly stop the clock when a team scores or the ball goes out of bounds Aussie rules matches regularly last well over 2 hours.

A key difference between rugby and Aussie rules is the length of the match. Instead of quarters rugby has two 40 minute halves. Even though the official time of a rugby and Aussie rules match is the same due to the longer breaks in Aussie rules (10 mins vs 30mins) and the more frequent clock stoppages Aussie rules matches are much longer. A typical rugby match including stoppages will last for 100 mins while an Aussie rules match can last well over 120 mins and sometimes as much as 150 mins.

How Big Is An Australian Rules Oval?

An Australian rules oval is 165m long and 135m wide, much larger than a rugby or football field. Aussie rules is played on an oval rather than rectangular field like many other sports.

A key difference between Australian rules and rugby is the size and shape of the fields the two sports are played on. Aussie rules is played on an oval while rugby is played on a rectangular field. A rugby field is 100m long and 70m wide. This is much smaller than an Australian rules oval which is typically 165m long and 135m wide.

Due to the massive field distance it is no wonder that during a game an Aussie rules player will run on average 13km while a rugby player will only run 7km.

What Are The Differences Between An Aussie Rules Ball And A Rugby Ball?

Rugby balls and Aussie rules balls are slightly different. An Aussie rules ball is slightly lighter and more elongated than a rugby ball making it easier to kick. Aussie rules balls are smoother and have less grip than rugby balls. Rugby balls no longer have stitching while aussies rules balls do.

Even though both sports use an oval shaped ball there are slight differences in the balls used by the two games. These differences are noticeable when playing.

Is There Offside In Australian Rules?

There is no offside in Australian rules. Players are free to roam the field wherever they please and can start in any position on the field. This promotes a fluid attacking game where Aussie rules players have many opportunities to link with teammates and move the ball upfield, putting them in position to score.

In contrast to Aussie rules, rugby has strict offside rules. In rugby the attacking side must stay behind the feet of the last man at the ruck. When chasing a kick the chasing players must have been behind the kicker at the time the ball kicked to make a play on the ball.

The lack of offside in Australian rules is what ensures the game is primarily kicking focused. As you can kick the ball to your teammate who is 30m up the field. Kicking is a much faster way to gain territory and set up scoring opportunities than running with the ball.

The strategy of kicking the ball to gain territory used in Aussie rules is not possible in rugby as you can not kick to players who are in front of you. The player in front of the kicker would be offside and a penalty would be awarded to the defending side. 


Australian rules and rugby may seem similar on the surface but when you have a look at the differences between the two games you will quickly realise how different they really are. The major difference between the two sports is the focus on kicking in Aussie rules and the focus on running in rugby. You combine that with the different scoring systems, fields, length of match and offside rules and you end up with two distinct sports.

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