March 03, 2022 4 min read
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The rugby ball is the most important piece of equipment in the game of rugby. It is the focus of every kick, scrummage, ruck, and try, but not all rugby balls are created equal. World Rugby Shop examines the finer points of rugby ball design to help you understand how to pick the right ball for the right occasion. Watch the video below or read on to become a rugby ball expert!
Match balls are designed for maximum performance as opposed to low cost and durability. They usually feature more natural rubber for improved grip, valves placed in the seams of the ball to improve spin and flight, more synthetic ply construction, and special internal bladders to further increase trueness of flight. There is a spectrum of match ball quality starting with those that are just a cut above training balls to those that are international quality.
Training Rugby balls are a very cost effective option for practices and low level game play or as an entry point for new players. They are designed with cost and durability in mind rather than maximum short term performance. Training balls tend to be made with more synthetic rubber which makes them more resilient but have less grip than match balls which use more natural rubber.
They also tend to have their valve on the panels as opposed to inside the seam as match balls do. This can cause the balls to not spin or kick quite as true as a match ball. Training balls will usually have ply’s constructed of more cotton as well.
These factors are not as important for practices where simply having enough balls is more important than having a few extremely high performing balls.
Sevens rugby balls are designed to maximize passing and catching performance given the relatively small amount of kicking done compared to 15’s. As a result, the grip is usually very aggressive (high angular dots) and the ball has a slightly narrower, more “torpedo” like shape. This makes the ball easier to handle, but slightly more difficult to kick.
Women’s specific balls are often either size 4.5, which is not legal for competition play, or are size 5 balls that are on the smallest end of the dimensions for a regulation ball. In the case of the 4.5 these are meant to help improve skill development for younger women in particular as younger women tend to have smaller hands than their male counter parts. This can make handling a full size 5 at a comparable age more challenging and some would contend harms skill development as a result (this is a contentious issue though). The regulation size 5’s for women are smaller for this same reason namely that women tend to have smaller hands and thus more difficulty handling the larger dimensions available in standard size 5 balls.
Touch rugby balls are designed to have maximum grip and be as easy to pass as possible as kicking in official Touch Rugby is not allowed (the tap excluded). They are also just a bit above a size 4 in dimensions making them far easier to handle for adults in particular than a standard rugby ball. These should not be used in standard rugby competitions unless size 4’s are allowed.
Beach rugby balls have a slightly soft, squishy surface designed to function properly even while wet and covered in sand. Beach rugby balls can also make excellent balls for young children and PE classes as they are much softer than standard rubber balls and can be less intimidating, easier to catch and potentially cause less damage if a child were to get hit in the head or face.
Weighted rugby balls usually weigh in at around 2.2 lbs (1 kg). They should never be kicked as they can cause serious harm to your foot and ankle. The extra weight helps develop the muscles involved in passing and force you to use a more efficient and technically sound pass. They are most valuable for the latter in our estimation as it is very difficult to make a successful pass using poor technique.
Rebounder balls are effectively half rugby balls that still have the weight of a standard ball and let you replicate the same passing mechanics of a full sized ball without the need for a partner. These are excellent for individual skill work and developing your pass. They work well for standard spin pass as well as line out throws and even end on end kicks.
Giant promo balls have no practical purpose, but can be great ways to promote your team or grab attention at recruiting events. They vary in size but the most common size we run into are sized: Length – 420mm (16.5 inches), Circ Length – 1140mm (44.9 inches), and Girth- 880mm (34.6 inches).