AFL vs. Rugby – Understanding the differences

At first glance, rugby and Australian Rules Football look quite similar. However, when you tune into the AFL and NRL, you’d learn that these are two entirely different sports in terms of rules and several other aspects. If you don’t, you’re at the right place, as we’ll share the key differences between AFL vs. rugby so you can clear the confusion once and for all. 

The Key Differences Between Australian Rules Football and Rugby

The Field Size

The first key difference between Australian Rules Football and Rugby is the size of the field. Standard rugby fields are 100m x 70m in dimensions. However, like cricket grounds, AFL fields can vary in length and width. However, they’re typically bigger in surface area compared to rugby fields. Lengths can vary from 135-185m, while the width ranges from 110-155m. 

The Field Shape

One of the most notable differences most people notice immediately is the field shape. While both fields are grassy, standard rugby pitches are rectangular. In contrast, Australian Rules Football is played on an oval field, often a cricket ground with the pitch temporarily converted for games. 

The Ball Shape

Both AFL and rugby are egg-shaped. Hence, it’s difficult to spot the differences right away. However, if you pay close attention, you’d notice that AFL balls have a larger hump. Moreover, the seams are also relatively larger, making them more suitable for grabbing and catching while running, especially considering the hot and humid climate Down Under. 

Number of Players and Substitutions

According to standard rugby rules, each team is allowed 15 players on the field with seven substitutions in a game. In Australian Rules Football, each team is allowed 18 players. However, since there are more players on the field at a time, AFL allows only three substitutions in a game. 

Game Duration

Both rugby and AFL games last for 80 minutes. However, the games are divided differently. In AFL, four quarters last 20 minutes each. The end of the second quarter signifies halftime. However, in rugby, a game is split into two halves, just like soccer, with each half lasting 40 minutes. 

Scoring Rules

Both sports have different scoring rules. In rugby, a player has to carry the ball into the opponent’s in-goal area. The team who succeeds gets 5 points in rewards. Another way to score is by kicking the ball between the two vertical goalposts. However, the scoring team gets 2 “conversion” points using this method. 

In AFL, however, teams don’t get any point for carrying the ball inside the end zone. Therefore, the only way to score is by kicking the ball into four goalposts. Moreover, the points are based on the kick’s accuracy. For instance, if you kick the ball through the outer posts, you get the point (behind). If you kick it through the inner goalposts, you get a goal, which is 6 points. 

Tackling and Passing Rules

Perhaps, the biggest differences between Australian Rules Football and rugby are the passing and tackling rules. You would know that forward passing isn’t allowed if you’re familiar with rugby rules. The same goes for AFL with a couple of tweaks. The only way to pass forward is by punching or kicking the ball. 

When it comes to tackling, rugby offers a great advantage to teams as the game doesn’t stop following a successful tackle by defensive players. The same applies for AFL since the tackles aren’t nearly as brutal as you’d see in American Football or rugby. 


Finally, another key difference between the two sports in terms of the region is the popularity. Although rugby is far more popular due to its worldwide coverage and the Six Nations Cup, the AFL is the more preferred sport by Australians. This is mainly due to the fact that it’s relatively faster, more technical due to the combination of foot and hand skills, and has fewer restrictions compared to rugby.


And there you have it – the key differences between AFL vs. rugby. Hopefully, with this information, you can easily distinguish between the two thrilling sports and pick your preference. If you want to place wagers on either sport, understanding these key differences would help your decision-making and results. 

AFL betting is rapidly becoming more popular each season with the influx of more fans, money, and competition. Get the latest odds on the AFL, so you don’t miss out on any developments. 

Lastly, always remember to gamble responsibly. Contact the Gambling Helpline for free and confidential support, information, and counselling on 1800 858 858 or visit

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