June 9, 2014 / Sports / Midwood

Rugby vs. football: Tale of the tape

Brooklyn Daily
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Brooklyn has a new rugby team — the Brooklyn Kings — but just what is this sport that is so popular among Britons and their former colonies down under, and can you still enjoy it while drinking beer and eating chicken wings?

This paper dove into the scrum to bring you key details that will keep you out of the sin bin when talking about the last footy with your mates.

First, there are two versions of the sport — rugby league and rugby union. The Kings play the former, which has more in common with American football than its union counterpart, said Kings co-founder Matt Bailey.

In rugby league, players have six downs to score a touchdown — called a “try” in rugby — but there are no first-down opportunities. Tackling the ball-carrier downs the ball. Play starts from a “scrummage” (or scrum), which looks a lot like football linemen setting up on the line of scrimmage.

Players mainly run the ball, but they can lateral or pass backwards when in trouble. Teams typically punt the ball on sixth down to give the opposition a less advantageous field position, said team captain Justin Coffman.

Players in both sports can kick the ball through uprights to score and convert tries.

Like American football, there are two main offensive styles that are loosely analogous to the ground and passing games found in football.

“Bigger teams with larger guys and less speed try to pound it up the middle,” said captain Justin Coffman. “Then there are some speed teams that want to spread you out and play isolation in open field.”

Unlike most American sports, the forwards are the larger players and the backs are speedy and agile, said Marc Hanke, who plays forward and lives in Fort Greene.

But perhaps the most noticeable difference between rugby league and American football is the lack of down-time between plays, Hanke said.

“It’s a lot more fast-paced that football,” he said.

Field size

Football – 100-by-53.33 yard field

Rugby – 130-by-74.3 yard “pitch”

Number of players on field

Football – 11

Rugby – 13

Downs to score

Football – 4 with first-downs

Rugby – 6 with no first-downs

Point values

Football – 6 points for a touchdown, 1 or 2 points for conversions, and 3 points for a field goal

Rugby – 4 points for a “try” (touchdown), 2 points for conversions, and 1 point for a drop goal (field goal)

Protective gear

Football – Helmet, pads, and a mouth-guard

Rugby – Reserved for candy-ass American sports

Most suggestive position name

Football – Tight end

Rugby – Hooker

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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