Rugby ball

Last updated
Rugby union ball by English company Webb Ellis Rugby ball webb ellis.png
Rugby union ball by English company Webb Ellis

A rugby ball is an elongated ellipsoidal ball used in rugby football. Its measurements and weight are specified by World Rugby and the Rugby League International Federation, the governing bodies for both codes, rugby union and rugby league respectively.


The rugby ball has an oval shape, four panels and a weight of about 400 grams. It is often confused with some balls of similar dimensions used in American, Canadian and Australian football.


Richard Lindon in 1880, with two four-panel rugby balls Richard Lindon (1816-1887).jpg
Richard Lindon in 1880, with two four-panel rugby balls

William Gilbert and Richard Lindon started making footballs for the neighbouring Rugby School in 1823. The balls had an inner-tube made of a pig's bladder. Both men owned boot and shoe making businesses located close to Rugby school. [1] In 1870, Richard Lindon introduced rubber inner-tubes and because of the pliability of rubber, the shape gradually changed from a sphere to an egg. Lindon and Bernardo Solano started making balls for Rugby School out of hand stitched, leather casings and pigs' bladders. The rugby ball's distinctive shape is supposedly due to the pig's bladder, although early balls were more plum-shape than oval. The balls varied in size in the beginning depending upon how large the pig's bladder was. [2]

Around 1862, Richard Lindon was desperate to find a replacement for the pig’s bladder and used an India rubber bladder instead. India rubber was too tough to inflate by mouth and so having been inspired by air syringes, he created a large brass air pump to inflate his rugby balls. [3] Lindon also claimed to invent the rugby ball and its distinctive oval shape but didn't patent his design for either the ball, the bladder or the pump. By the 1880s there were several manufacturers of 'footballs' in England all using the same process. [1]

The size and shape of the ball was not written into the rules until 1892, when it was determined as follows: [1] - Length 11 to 11 1/4 inches - Circumference (end on) 30 to 31 inches - Circumference (in width) 25 1/2 to 26 inches - Weight: 12 to 13 ounces - Hand sewn with not less than 8 stitches to the inch

In 1892 the RFU endorsed ovalness as the compulsory shape. The gradual flattening of the ball continued over the years. [4]

The introduction of synthetic footballs over the traditional leather balls, in both rugby codes, was originally governed by weather conditions. If the playing surface was wet, the synthetic ball was used, as it didn't absorb water and become heavy. Eventually, the leather balls were phased out completely. Polyester is used as backing material to hold the ball's oval shape, along with additional material for grips to enhance performance. The ball is stitched with polyester thread and coated with wax to make it more water-resistant. [5]

Rugby union

A Gilbert rugby football as used in rugby union Rugbyball2.jpg
A Gilbert rugby football as used in rugby union

The rugby ball used in rugby union is a prolate spheroid essentially elliptical in profile. Modern footballs are manufactured in a variety of colors and patterns. A regulation football is 28–30 cm (11–12 in) long and 58–62 cm (23–24 in) in circumference at its widest point. It weighs 410–460 g (14–16 oz) and is inflated to 65.7–68.8 kPa (9.5–10.0 psi). [6]

In 1980, traditional leather-encased balls, which were prone to water-logging, were replaced with balls encased in synthetic waterproof materials. [4] The Gilbert Synergie was the match ball of the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

Most of the professional leagues use Adidas, Gilbert, Mitre or Webb Ellis manufactured balls.

Rugby league

A Steeden football as used in rugby league Steedenfootball.jpg
A Steeden football as used in rugby league

Rugby league is played with a prolate spheroid shaped football which is inflated with nitrogen. [7] A referee will stop play immediately if the ball does not meet the requirements of size and shape. [7] Traditionally made of brown leather, modern footballs are synthetic and manufactured in a variety of colours and patterns. Senior competitions should use light coloured balls to allow spectators to see the ball more easily. [7] The football used in rugby league is known as "international size" or "size 5" and is approximately 27 cm (11 in) long and 60 cm (24 in) in circumference at its widest point. Smaller-sized balls are used for junior versions of the game, such as "Mini" and "Mod". A full size ball weighs between 383 and 440 g (13.5 and 15.5 oz). Rugby league footballs are slightly more pointed than rugby union footballs and larger than American footballs.

Both the Australian National Rugby League and the Super League use balls made by Steeden. Steeden is also sometimes used as a noun to describe the ball itself.

See also

Related Research Articles

Ball Round object

A ball is a round object with various uses. It is used in ball games, where the play of the game follows the state of the ball as it is hit, kicked or thrown by players. Balls can also be used for simpler activities, such as catch or juggling. Balls made from hard-wearing materials are used in engineering applications to provide very low friction bearings, known as ball bearings. Black-powder weapons use stone and metal balls as projectiles.

Rugby football Rugby union and rugby league team sports

Rugby is a collective name for the family of team sports of rugby union and rugby league, as well as the earlier forms of football from which both games, as well as Australian rules football and gridiron football, evolved.

Spheroid Surface formed by rotating an ellipse around one of its axes; special case of ellipsoid

A spheroid, also known as ellipsoid of revolution or rotational ellipsoid, is a quadric surface obtained by rotating an ellipse about one of its principal axes; in other words, an ellipsoid with two equal semi-diameters. A spheroid has circular symmetry.

A football is a ball inflated with air that is used to play one of the various sports known as football. In these games, with some exceptions, goals or points are scored only when the ball enters one of two designated goal-scoring areas; football games involve the two teams each trying to move the ball in opposite directions along the field of play.

1872 in sports describes the year's events in world sport.

Water polo ball Ball used for water and canoe polo

A water polo ball is a ball used in water polo and canoe polo, usually characterized by a bright yellow color and ease of grip ability, so as to allow it to be held with one hand despite its large size.

Baseball (ball) Ball used in the sport of baseball

A baseball is a ball used in the sport of the same name. The ball comprises a rubber or cork center wrapped in yarn and covered with white horsehide or cowhide. A regulation baseball is 9–9+14 inches in circumference, with a mass of 5 to 5+14 oz.. A baseball is bound together by 108 hand-woven stitches through the cowhide leather.

William Gilbert (1799–1877), established Gilbert company, the manufacturer of sports equipment, in 1823. Gilbert had a boot and shoemakers shop on 19 High Street next to Rugby School and started making balls for the school out of hand stitched, four-panel, leather casings and pig bladders. These balls were bigger and rounder than today's balls, which made them easier to kick longer distances.

Billiard table

A billiard table or billiards table is a bounded table on which cue sports are played. In the modern era, all billiards tables provide a flat surface usually made of quarried slate, that is covered with cloth, and surrounded by vulcanized rubber cushions, with the whole thing elevated above the floor. More specific terms are used for specific sports, such as snooker table and pool table, and different-sized billiard balls are used on these table types. An obsolete term is billiard board, used in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Webb Ellis Rugby Football Museum

The Webb Ellis Rugby Football Museum is a rugby football museum in the town centre of Rugby in Warwickshire, England, near Rugby School. It takes its name from William Webb Ellis who is credited with inventing the game of Rugby football.


Sherrin is a brand of football used in Australian rules football and is the official ball of the Australian Football League, designed to its official specifications. It was the first ball designed specifically for the sport.

A lacrosse stick or crosse is used to play the sport of lacrosse. Players use the lacrosse stick to handle the ball and to strike or "check" opposing players' sticks, causing them to drop the ball. The head of a lacrosse stick is roughly triangular in shape and is strung with loose netting that allows the ball to be caught, carried, passed, or shot.

Ball (association football) Spherical object used in association football tournament

A football, soccer ball, football ball, or association footballball is the ball used in the sport of association football. The name of the ball varies according to whether the sport is called "football", "soccer", or "association football". The ball's spherical shape, as well as its size, weight, and material composition, are specified by Law 2 of the Laws of the Game maintained by the International Football Association Board. Additional, more stringent standards are specified by FIFA and subordinate governing bodies for the balls used in the competitions they sanction.


Burley-Sekem Pty Ltd is an Australian sports equipment manufacturing company. It was formed in 1985 from the merger of "Burley Sports Pty Ltd", and "Sekem Pty Ltd.".

Basketball (ball) Inflated ball used for basketball games

A basketball is a spherical ball used in basketball games. Basketballs usually range in size from very small promotional items that are only a few inches in diameter to extra large balls nearly 2 feet (60 cm) in diameter used in training exercises. For example, a youth basketball could be 27 inches (69 cm) in circumference, while a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men's ball would be a maximum of 30 inches (76 cm) and an NCAA women's ball would be a maximum of 29 inches (74 cm). The standard for a basketball in the National Basketball Association (NBA) is 29.5 inches (75 cm) in circumference and for the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), a maximum circumference of 29 inches (74 cm). High school and junior leagues normally use NCAA, NBA or WNBA sized balls.

Steeden Sports is an Australian sports equipment manufacturing company, mainly focused on rugby league. The company is mostly known for its rugby league footballs. Steeden was established in Queensland in 1958, when twins Eric and Raymond Steeden opened a factory in Brisbane, Australia, producing leather cricket balls, rugby league balls and boxing bags. The company moved to New South Wales in the 1960s, and was acquired by British sporting goods corporation Grays International in 1995.

Richard Lindon

Richard Lindon was an English leatherworker who was instrumental in the development of the modern-day rugby ball by advancing the craft for ball, rubber bladder, and air pump.

Pig bladder

Pig bladder is the urinary bladder of a domestic pig, similar to the human urinary bladder. Today, this hollow organ has various applications in medicine, and in traditional cuisines and customs. Historically, the pig bladder had several additional uses, all based on its properties as a lightweight, stretchable container that could be filled and tied off.

Comparison of association football and rugby union

Comparison of association football (football/soccer) and rugby union (rugby/rugger) is possible because of the games' similarities and shared origins.

Ball (gridiron football)

In Canada and the United States, a football is a ball, roughly in the form of a prolate spheroid, used in the context of playing gridiron football. Footballs are often made of cow hide leather, as such a material is required in professional and collegiate football. Footballs used in recreation, and in organized youth leagues, may be made of rubber or plastic materials.


  1. 1 2 3 The pioneers on Rugby Football History
  2. Simon Hawkesley. Official Richard Lindon Site Archived 2007-03-11 at the Wayback Machine . Retrieved 7 August 2008.
  3. The history of the rugby ball by Paul Wassell, 15 Oct 2016
  4. 1 2 Blood, mud and aftershave in The Observer Sunday February 5, 2006, Section B is for Ball by Oliver Price
  5. What are rugby balls made of? by Craig Berman on Sports Rec, 4 Sep 2009
  6. "Rugby Union: Law 2 – The ball". 15 January 2007. Archived from the original on January 15, 2007. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  7. 1 2 3 RLIF: Laws of the Game, published October 2017