Rugby Ball – shaped a bit like an egg.
Rugby Union is played with an elliptical ball, commonly called a rugby ball. Its egg like shape is why some rugby players refer to themselves as “egg chasers”. Law 2 of the IRB Rugby Rules define its size, shape and even air pressure.
Two men, Richard Lindon and William Gilbert both shoemakers, are recognised as the first makers of rugby balls. They produced them for the boys at Rugby School in England to use for their games of quad rugger or quad ball which is credited as the start of the modern game.
The first rugby balls had a leather outer layer made of four hand stitched panels over an inflated pigs bladder which gave the ball its distinctive oval shape. Rubber bladders were introduced in 1870 which meant balls could be standardised. Their size and shape were first added to the rugby rules in 1892 and are still included in the IRB Laws today.
Current IRB Specifications for a Rugby Ball
An oval ball, 28–30 cm (11–12 in) long and 58–62 cm (23–24 in) around, made of four panels of leather or synthetic material.
Water resistant and easy to grip it should weigh 410–460 g (14–16 oz) and have an air pressure at start of play of 65.7–68.8 kPa (9.5–10.0 psi).
The dimensions and profile of the rugby ball has changed over time as technology and rules of the game have evolved. It is said the ends are more rounded than its close relative the American Football to give a good bounce when drop goals are attempted by players. It’s American cousin is also flatter to allow for easier forward passing and has a seam with lacing which helps the thrower get a better grip.
In 1980, balls with a synthetic outer layer were originally introduced for wet conditions as the original leather balls would absorb the water on the field and become heavy. Eventually synthetic was preferred in all forms of the game and in all weathers. In recent years the match balls have featured club and sponsors logos and are produced in a wide range of colours.
Rugby Ball Size Guide
The sizes or grades of ball available reflect the age range of the players.
|Size 5 ball||U15 and above||Full size rugby ball|
|Size 4.5 ball||Ladies rugby ball|
|Size 4 ball||U10, U11,U12,U13,U14||Junior rugby ball|
|Size 3 ball||U7, U8, U9||Mini rugby ball|
|Size 2 ball||U6 and below||Micro rugby ball|
A weighted or heavy rugby ball is used in training to help players improve their passing. Weighing 1.3kg, the ball can be used in specific exercises and drills which target key areas of the body with the aim of strengthening and developing core muscle groups, so aiding players to increase their accuracy and distance.
Gilbert is still a leading name in rugby, making rugby gear and equipment for many of the leading teams. It is also the official ball supplier of the Rugby World Cup.
The successful performance of their Xact match rugby ball from 2003 and Synergie rugby ball of 2007 RWC tournaments lead many countries to start using Gilbert products exclusively. However the Virtuo ball which was introduced for the RWC 2011 in New Zealand was a topic of debate among the TV commentators and rugby magazine writers.
Statistics showed that the kickers percentages were way down on their club and previous international performances. The All Blacks Dan Carter saw his average drop from 75% to 67% and the usually reliable Ireland Rugby No 10 Jonny Sexton could only manage 38%. England Rugby Coach Martin Johnson blamed the rugby ball for Jonny Wilkinson missing five attempts in the opening match and two coaches were suspended later in the tournament for illegally swapping a rugby ball used for conversions.
Much blame was placed on the rugby ball which appeared to favour a running game and the lack of time the players had had to practice with it prior to the event despite it being used in international matches and the Six Nations in the run-up. However it should be remembered that the 2011 final between hosts New Zealand and France was won with a kick by the All Blacks fourth choice. There didn’t seem to be a problem with that rugby ball.
Diagram from the IRB Rugby Rules for the Rugby Ball