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April 20, 2021 4 min read

Rugby Shorts Buyer’s Guide

Shorts are a necessary piece of equipment for every rugby player but not just any pair of shorts will stand up to the rigors of the game. Rugby shorts are designed and constructed to be as tough as the game and World Rugby Shop takes a look at what you need to consider when buying rugby shorts. 

Why Rugby Shorts? 

Outside of the classic cotton Rugby jersey, there is no more iconic piece of kit than the Rugby short. Rugby shorts traditionally are shorter than the standard gym short and show plenty of thigh but more importantly are built to live up the mayhem of the game. This allows you to play at your best and not require replacing your shorts every other practice. 

4 Things to Consider when Selecting Rugby Shorts 


Rugby shorts have traditionally been made of a cotton canvas material with a short inseam (2” – 4”) to allow for freedom of movement. This is part of why rugby shorts have traditionally been very short. The benefits of cotton are they are very cost effective, yet durable, and can be broken in much like a pair of jeans. The downside is they are more rigid and less durable than more modern materials which have a bit of give. They also manage moisture very poorly and get heavy in wet or very humid conditions. 


Most modern shorts are made of polyester primarily with some utilizing a bit of lycra or spandex either in the main paneling itself or in special gussets designed to increase range of motion. This makes the shorts significantly lighter than traditional cotton shorts and they manage moisture much better. Polyester can still be fairly rigid so it is important to pay attention to whether the short has all over stretch material or at least stretch zones either in the crotch, side panels or both.


You will want shorts that fit comfortably, but do not hinder performance. Excessively baggy shorts can make it difficult for teammates to bind, provide hand holds for the opposition to tackle or hold you up, and diminish the height of your jump if you get lifted in lineouts or kickoffs. 

If the shorts are too tight then it can hinder your running and ability to get into proper rucking, tackling and scrummaging positions. Depending on the material you might want to err on the side of too large (if going with a rigid cotton or polyester short) or smaller (if going with a very flexible short). 

Inseam length is mostly down to preference these days as performance shorts don’t require a short inseam to maintain their flexibility. 


Rugby shorts are a straightforward piece of equipment, but there are a few elements available that are worth considering. 

Pockets: Once standard on all shorts, pockets can be convenient if you like to store your mouth piece in them or you like to wear rugby shorts around town. Some players like to utilize the pockets for binding in scrums as well. Unfortunately for traditionalists, most modern performance shorts do not incorporate pockets as modern techniques don’t require them and they add extra material. If you want pockets you will usually need to go with a cotton short or a referee short these days. 

Rubberized waistband gripper:  Many top end shorts will add a silicon or rubberized waistband to help hold your jersey in if you like to tuck yours or just to keep your shorts in place better. 

Mouthpiece Pouch: Given the elimination of pockets on most modern shorts, a few brands have started adding in a mouthpiece pouch into their shorts. It can be convenient if you like to take your mouthpiece out between plays, halftime or between matches. 

Flex zones/Range of Motion: Many shorts, even performance shorts, will utilize a more rigid material for the body of the shorts. The flexibility and range of motion in these shorts comes from adding special stretch zones that utilize a very flexible material like lycra or spandex. These stretch areas are usually located in the crotch of the shorts (sometimes with names like star gusset crotch) and/or side vents on the outside of the lower thigh. Occasionally these side thigh panels will extend up the entirety of the short. 

As stretch polyester materials have gotten more rugged and stitching better there is a trend to simply having the whole body of the short be flexible so just because a short does not have these stretch zones does not mean it has poor range of motion. 

Angled leg openings: Another design feature that is often employed to improve range of motion is to have a slightly angled leg opening so that the short legs create a slight V-Shape. This allows the shorts to slide up the thigh more easily when in full stride. 

Picking the Right Pair 

Often times you will need to buy the pair of shorts that complement your team’s jerseys. But at a minimum you need some training shorts. 

Consider a few things. The first is budget vs. performance. Lower end shorts will tend to be more rigid and lacking the bells and whistles of higher end shorts. This may or may not be a problem for you. Plenty of outstanding rugby players have used cotton rugby shorts, but undoubtedly a good pair of performance shorts will be much more comfortable in the long run. 

Appearance and short length is another. Some players really prefer as long a short as they can get so paying attention to the inseam is important here. 

Durabilityis another. While cotton shorts are a great entry rugby short, they are not as durable as modern top end shorts. If you want a pair that will last for many seasons it is worth investing a bit more upfront. 

Fortunately no matter what route you go, you’ll get a product built to withstand the rigors of rugby and will have you ready for Saturday. 

Material (cotton v polyester/spandex), stretch, inseam, waistband, pockets v no pockets, leg openings .

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