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October 26, 2021 3 min read

Rugby Match Balls Are Designed for Maximum Performance

Rugby Match Balls are designed for maximum performance, as opposed to low cost and durability, so they are generally more pricey than training and other replica balls.

So, what are the features that make match balls so great? Why would one spend so much money on a ball?  Glad you asked! 

First off, there's a spectrum of qualities within match balls, starting with those just above a training ball to those meant for the World Cup. It can be confusing as to why one can cost $30 and another $120. 

In general the better the match ball gets the more of these qualities you will get:

  • Better energy transfer (so it kicks farther)
  • Better grip (easier to pass and catch)
  • More consistent/predictable ball rotation (for distance and accuracy on kicks in particular)
  • Better shape retention (so it keeps kicking and passing consistently over time)

There are a few basic features of almost all match balls: 

  • Natural Rubber (for grip) -  A higher concentration of natural rubber enhances grip without compromising flight performance.
  • Valve In Seam (for rotation) - Since one panel isn't heavier than another, the ball rotates better and doesn't corkscrew. 
  • Synthetic Material (for air retention) - Increased synthetic material improves air retention and energy transfer.
  • 3-ply Construction (for kicking and long passing) - 3-ply is heavier than 2-ply which is more ideal for the kicking and passing game.
  • Special Internal Bladders - increases trueness of flight

However, not all match balls are created equally:

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.

High end match balls will sometimes be designated as 'Pre-Kicked'. This helps the ball find its correct shape after inflation more quickly than a ball which has not been pre-kicked and also helps detect any defects in manufacturing. This is one more advantage of a premium match ball over other balls.

Cost of a match balls varies, so you want to make sure you're getting what you need. 

Depending on how they are constructed, the cost of match balls can vary greatly. So, it's best to determine what your purpose is for buying the ball, to make sure your needs are met. What's your goal? 

If you just need something that is going to be a step up from a training ball to get a more consistent performance for practice, you can go lower end, especially for passing and tackling practice.  If you have a cup final, you will probably want a higher end ball.  And, if you are fanatical about developing your skills and being precise with your kicking, you should probably consider using higher end balls to really let your technique shine through, while you practice and play.

The highest caliber balls, designed for professional international teams, can cost $120 or more, while match balls designed for Seniors are in the $75-$100, and those designed for school and club rugby can range from $30 to $55.  

Gilbert Sirius Rugby Match Ball

Match Ball Trivia

What company makes the best match balls?

Many companies make quality match balls, but Gilbert is known as the father of the rugby ball and a most trusted brand. Gilbert created the first rugby ball at the inception of the game, remodeled the ball as rugby transformed, and today is World Rugby's match ball of choice. Gilbert also patented the 'Truflight' valve placed in the seam of the ball.

How do I determine if a ball is a match ball?

When looking at rugby balls, the easiest way to determine which is a match ball, is to look at the valve placement. The general rule is that the valve on match balls is in the seam, which improves the spin and flight of the ball. On a training, replica, or novelty ball, you will find the valve on the panel.



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