Last updated: 05/15/2020

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2020 was another exceptional year for rugby fans, as they saw an incredible Rugby World Cup take place in Japan from September to November. The third most-watched sporting event on television after the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup gave lovers of the game a run for their money, with South Africa clinching a third title after 1995 and 2007.

The Rugby World Cup is a tournament held every four years and, like other sports, has its own official ball. The good news is that you don’t have to wait for the most significant event in the rugby world to enjoy the sport, as it can be played virtually anywhere. In the following article, you will learn everything you need to find the perfect rugby ball.

Key Facts

  • The ball is the only essential element to practice rugby.
  • The age of the players determines its size and weight.
  • Durability and grip are essential when choosing a rugby ball, as they will influence its overall quality.

Our Selection: The Best Rugby Balls on the U.S. Market

We have selected the very best rugby balls currently on the market in the section below. There is a model for everyone, from children, to beginners, to advanced players. Have a good look at the characteristics and performance of each ball and choose wisely. You will then be set to play one of the most popular sports on the planet.

Best Rugby Ball for Competition

Gilbert is the best brand in the business, and most major rugby events are played with their balls. So why not get the official replica ball of the Eagles, the U.S. national rugby union team? It is a size 5 and officially licensed product, which means that its size and weight are apt for competitive matches. The synthetic rubber bladder offers increased durability. Please note that all rugby balls arrive deflated.

Best Rugby Ball for Training

Now, you may be on the hunt for a ball to have for training, to practice kicking with, and that you will always have under your arm. The G-TR4000 is designed to last, with hand-stitched synthetic rubber panels and a TRI grip technology for improved handling on the field. Available in size 3, 4, or 5 and neon yellow or white and red colors, this rugby ball is ideal for young players or training in clubs.

Best Rugby Ball to Train Passing

Now, this definitely isn’t your typical rugby ball, as you can probably tell by its shape. If you have never seen a rebounder ball, we will explain exactly what it does and why you need one. Despite its odd shape, its weight is the same as any match ball, so you can practice passing on your own! All you have to do is find a wall, pass the rebounder, and it will come right back. This is the perfect product to hone your passes on your own.

Best Replica Rugby Ball

With the 2019 Rugby World Cup just over, we couldn’t possibly have a selection without a replica ball. While it isn’t the exact replica of the match ball used during the tournament, it does present a little twist that we are sure you will love. Instead of the original design, this model features a Japanese flag in honor of the host nation, the Brave Blossoms. This size 5 ball is intended for training or recreational use.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Rugby Balls

The globalization of rugby has contributed to the development of top-quality products by major sportswear brands and the most recognized rugby-specific manufacturers like Gilbert and Canterbury. The competition between these different companies has also led to quality products becoming more affordable. As you can imagine, rugby balls are the most demanded articles in the sport.

Rugby balls are oval and contain an air chamber covered with several layers of synthetic material.
(Source: Wavebreak Media Ltd: 79165180/ 123rf.com)

What is a rugby ball exactly?

The rugby ball is the most distinctive element of the sport. Oval in shape, it contains an air chamber covered with several layers of synthetic material. It features a valve that can be placed in one of the panels or the seam, depending on the quality of the ball. The four panels are sewn together to improve aerodynamics, allowing players to throw the ball over long distances using their hands or feet.

World Rugby – the sport’s governing body – determines the size, weight, and air of the balls. Their length should be between 280 and 300 millimeters (11 to 11.8 inches) with a length circumference of 740 to 770 millimeters (29.1 to 30.3 inches) and a width circumference of 580 and 620 millimeters (22.8 to 24.4 inches). The weight ranges from 410 to 460 grams (14.4 to 16.2 ounces), with an air pressure of 9.5-10.0 pounds per square inch.

Why are rugby balls oval?

Manufactured by William Gilbert and Richard Lindon, the very first rugby balls had an air chamber made from pig bladders that did not remain completely round – unlike soccer balls – when covered with the four leather panels. As a matter of fact, there were no specific rules regarding the shape of rugby balls at that time.

Legend has it that the sport was created in Rugby, a city located in the West Midlands region of England. The students of the Rugby School were the ones who wanted to differentiate themselves from football by playing with a different ball. In reality, it was in 1892 that the Rugby Football Union imposed the rule of an oval ball, which was easier to handle and pass with the hands.

Owen FarrellCaptain of the England National Rugby Union Team

“Rugby is a game where everything is connected – from your kicking game to your defence to your set piece and attack.”

What materials is the rugby ball made of?

Rugby balls consist of a multi-layered air chamber covered with four panels of a synthetic material sewn together. From there on, the number of layers determines the quality of the ball. Natural rubber is used to increase grip in competitive matches, while synthetic rubber balls offer greater durability in training.

The outer layer is textured with tiny pellets that will provide more or less grip for the players depending on how they are made. These little elements will vary in height, with some being rounder than others; the ease of handling of the ball and the speed and distance you can throw it at are ultimately determined by this grip.

Material Recommended for
Foam Suitable for beginners (trauma prevention)
Rubber Suitable for beach rugby, no seams
Synthetic Suitable for any type of surface

Which are the most recognized brands of rugby balls?

In 1987, Mitre became the first official manufacturer for a Rugby World Cup, before the Adidas Webb Ellis – named after the inventor of the sport – followed suit in 1991. For the 1995 Rugby World Cup held in South Africa, the English brand Gilbert won the race to create the official ball and has done so ever since.

Although the company of shoemaker William Gilbert did not invent rugby balls, it popularized them to become the brand par excellence of the sport. Major sportswear manufacturers such as Adidas and Puma, or specialized brands like Canterbury, Rhino, Optimum or Ram, develop most of the other rugby balls sold worldwide.

Rugby is generally played on soft ground, either on grass or sand.
(Source: Bennymarty: 69335582/ 123rf.com)

How much does a rugby ball cost?

As you can see from our product selection above, there is a wide range of rugby balls on the American market. The prices will vary from 15 to 60 dollars, depending on whether you want a model for training or competition. You can also purchase replicas of official match balls from the greatest events in the game.

Training balls are naturally more affordable than models designed for use in competitive matches.

Are there specific training and competition balls?

While you can play and train at amateur levels with any type of ball that meets the World Rugby international standards, it is true that balls with high durability and good value for money are particularly sought-after for training. Models with the best grip and quality are tailored to competitions.

In addition to the balls mentioned above, you can also find initiation models for children; special balls with a greater weight to work your strength; balls without a tip to train your pass individually on a wall; or for specific grounds and categories such as beach rugby. Not to mention vintage balls used for decoration, or personalized ones for rugby clubs.

The grip is essential to handle the ball.
(Source: Wavebreak Media Ltd: 79165857/ 123rf.com)

What are the advantages of the different types of rugby balls?

Training and competition balls really have small differences. However, these can become crucial in official competition, as some brands manufacture balls for specific types of weather. In the table below, you can view the main benefits and drawbacks of purchasing training or competition balls:

Type Advantages Disadvantages
Training Stability.

Design.

Durability.

They may be lighter since some brands reduce costs by removing layers, as is allowed by World Rugby.

Inferior grip.

Competition Several strategically placed layers.

Size, weight, and air follow World Rugby regulations.

Improved grip and excellent aerodynamics.

They may be a little heavier.

They are not as resistant or durable as training balls.

What disciplines can be practiced with a rugby ball?

Rugby union, rugby league, and rugby sevens are the most played disciplines, among which you can also find touch rugby and beach rugby. All these disciplines have different rules of the game. This has led balls to adapt to the needs of each sport, precisely when it comes to the grip.

In that regard, the spacing, shape, and size of the grip are thoroughly cared for. A higher grip will ensure greater handling at the expense of kicking distance, while a rounded, lower grip will sacrifice handling to increase durability.

Buyer’s Guide

Before you purchase a new rugby ball, there are several criteria to evaluate. Luckily for you, we have detailed them in the following section. Rugby balls come in different sizes, with various types being available depending on your use of them. All these factors will directly influence the durability of the product.

Age of the Player

Rugby ball sizes range from 1 to 5, each being tailored exclusively to an age group. You can find balls of sizes 1 (mini) and 2 for initiation, size 3 for players under the age of 9, size 4 for players of 10 to 14, and size 5 for all other players.

Size Characteristics Features
1 and 2 Mini balls.

Ideal for introducing young children to the sport.

They are not used to play but have a similar grip to other balls.

They offer good resistance.

Attractive designs.

3 For players from 5 to 9 years old.

Children play their first games with these balls.

Good grip.

Greater stability and speed.

Some may have an attractive design.

4 For players from 10 to 14 years old.

Official ball for some female competitions and school categories.

Good grip.

Greater stability and speed.

Design.

5 For players over the age of 15 and senior male competitions.

Professional balls.

Maximum grip.

Greater stability and precision.

Higher speed

Durability

Once you have chosen the size of your rugby ball based on your age, the durability is the next key factor to look at. If you are looking for a ball to get started in the sport or to work on your technique, you should prioritize durable balls that will allow you continuous use.

A ball with more than two layers and a synthetic rubber cover may not offer the best grip on the market, but it will be resistant enough to be used on any type of pitch and in any weather conditions. In addition, its shape and grip won’t be affected as much over time.

Use Advantages
Leisure and initiation They are cheaper and can be decorative.
Training  Good grip, pressure, and feel.

They are also very durable and resistant.

They have a layer less than those used in competition.

Competition Characteristics and weight defined by World Rugby.

They have the latest valves available and more pressure.

Grip

This is perhaps the most fundamental element in any type of rugby ball. The grip consists of hundreds of small relief points that cover the ball. The more and the higher these points are, the greater the grip will be. Balls that offer the very best grip are generally covered with natural rubber.

Remember that rugby is a year-round sport played, which is why you will want to have a ball with a good grip for rainy days and muddy fields. Competitive rugby naturally requires balls with a high-quality grip to get the best out of the players. The type of rugby you want to play will also influence the grip you need.

Position of the Valve

You may not think so at first, but this is another key criterion to evaluate. The valves of the air chambers in the balls are either placed on one of the panels or in the seam. If you need a ball for competition or for kicking training, you should choose the second option that offers a better trajectory when kicked.

Surface

While rugby is played primarily on soft ground (either grass or sand), touch rugby is sometimes practiced on hard ground. If you tend to play on the latter, remember to opt for a ball with increased durability. That being said, these models are heavier, less stable, and offer inferior handling.

Summary

The rugby ball you purchase will depend on the age of the user, the durability of the ball, and the frequency of use. For competitive matches, you should opt for the products with the best grip. Please don’t neglect the position of the valve either; remember that it is best located in the seam for kicking training or official matches.

Thanks to the technological advances in the sports industry and the wide range of offers by various quality brands, you can easily pick the best rugby ball for your needs. Are you looking for a product for initiation, training, or competition? So, grab your rugby ball and gather your friends. Once the match is over, don’t forget the third half!

If you liked our guide on rugby balls, feel free to leave us a comment in the section below. You can also share it on your social media!

(Source of featured image: Wavebreak-Media-Ltd: 79165852/ 123rf.com)

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