If you’ve been watching the fantastic showcase of rugby that this November’s international matches have offered us, there’s a good chance you feel like having a go at the sport yourself. If that’s you, make sure you have the right equipment before you hit the pitch.
The list of gear can be as simple or as complicated as you like really – most amateur rugby clubs won’t expect you to turn up with all the gear, but having the right kit can also be the difference between you spending an evening throwing yourself into this fantastic new sport and making friends, and being stood on the sidelines watching everyone else having all the fun. So, before you head out onto the pitch, here are the absolute essentials you’ll need (and a few things you might want to pick up to make your life easier)
1) Rugby Boots
Rugby is played on grass, and as a result some sort of cleat is absolutely essential to give you grip and stability on the soft surface – it’s worth knowing that in rugby circles, ‘cleats’ are known as boots, and the cleat itself is referred to as a ‘stud’.
Related: Rugby Boot Buyer’s Guide
Traditional rugby boots have an ankle-cut with removable long metal studs, however this is no longer the case – lower cut boots similar to soccer cleats are now the norm (though some forwards still favor the additional ankle support), and molded ‘blade’ boots are becoming increasingly popular among backs.
For your first session, and indeed as you and your coach start to work out where you’re best suited to play, a general-purpose boot such as the Canterbury Stampede or Gilbert Sprint will do the job very well.
Rugby is a contact sport, and while you don’t have the padding and helmets of football, players will still wear more subtle protective equipment to reduce the risk of injury, and the most essential part is the mouth guard (commonly called a ‘gumshield’ in rugby), which protects the teeth, gums, lips and arches.
Related: Why Buy a Rugby Mouthguard
Simply put, you don’t have a mouth guard, chances are you won’t be allowed to play – from grass roots amateur level all the way up to the All Blacks, wearing a gum shield is mandatory in the vast majority of teams and leagues, and strongly encouraged everywhere else.
While some players will opt for custom-made mouth guards molded to the exact shape of their teeth and gums, novices will be fine with a basic ‘boil and bite’ design, such as the SISU mouthguard (seen above). This mouthguard is stronger, more comfortable, and most importantly is easy to wear.
3) Rugby Socks
Rugby socks are very similar to the socks worn by soccer players – usually made of nylon, these thick socks are designed to be hard-wearing and warm. Rugby socks are designed to be worn pulled up just below the knees (though some players prefer to ignore this and roll them down) they serve a dual purpose of both keeping a player’s calves warm, and also protecting the lower legs from the scrapes and cuts that can easily be caused by metal studs at rucks.
When you get to playing a full game for your new team, you’ll be given (or be able to buy) the correct kit, including socks, but for training purposes, any plain pair of socks will do the job just fine – such as these classic Canterbury Drymax examples.
4) Rugby Shorts
Rugby shorts differ from the shorts worn in soccer and basketball in that they’re generally a lot shorter and more fitted to the thigh – the longer the shorts are the easier it is for an opponent to grab onto them and tackle you in suitably embarrassing fashion.
As they’re constantly getting grabbed, pulled and yanked on (players will grip onto each others’ shorts at the scrum and for lifting at the line-out) they need to be hard-wearing and very strong, so the shorts are usually made of a woven, non-stretchy material as a result. A good, solid example of this is BLK’s T2 short, or the Gilbert Saracen.
5) Rugby Jersey
As with the socks and shorts, you’ll be wearing gear issued by your team when the time comes to actually play a game, but you can’t wear that for training can you? If your club is very organised and well kitted out, they might have actual training gear that you’ll be issued with, but most amateur teams are happy for you to wear what you like.
Rugby shirts are built to take a lot of punishment – they’re generally quite thick compared to football or soccer jerseys, and modern players prefer a tight-fitting cut to make it harder for opposition players to grab hold of them. If you want to buy a specific training jersey, you’ll be hard-pushed to find better than adidas’ Formotion design, but this is also a chance for you to show your colours. Many amateur players wear their favorite team replica jerseys to train in, so if you feel like doing that, go right ahead!
While the above will get you through your first rugby training session, depending on your personal preference, climate and the position you’re going to play, you may want to add a few extra items to your list to make your first experience of rugby more enjoyable as you move into playing a full game.
Many players, particularly forwards wear scrum caps – padded foam head guards that are designed to protect players from suffering cauliflower ears, and also offer limited protection the head from minor impacts and stray boots/studs.
Related: Why Buy a Rugby Scrum Cap
Rugby is a sport that’s particularly hard on the shoulders and torso, so many players have also taken to wearing light body armour underneath their jerseys – these shirts generally feature padding on the shoulders and chest to reduce impacts.
Another common addition for modern players is compression shirts and shorts – these tight-fitting spandex garments keep the muscles warm when you’re standing around (which can happen a lot during a game or training session) and offer some extra support, too.
So there you have it – everything you need to get playing rugby. What are you waiting for? Find yourself a club and get into the most exciting sport on the planet!