The cotton rugby short has in many ways stayed roughly the same since its inception so many years ago. Constructed out of a durable cotton canvas like material with reinforced stitching, the traditional cotton rugby short is still popular among club teams for matches and training. Here we will take a fresh and objective look at this most venerated of rugby kit- the cotton rugby short.

Despite the increasing popularity of newer performance rugby shorts, there are still several significant pros to the traditional cotton rugby short.


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The first major pro for the cotton short is that it is typically quite a bit cheaper than its performance oriented counterpart. Because cotton is so much more common as a material, the stitching is far more straightforward and the materials and production costs for producing cotton shorts is simply lower at this stage in the game. So for those just getting into the sport or for those looking to outfit their teams with durable, but cheaper, kit will find the cotton rugby short still puts forward a compelling argument when it comes to price point.

The second major advantage for cotton rugby shorts is that they make traditional lineout lifting methods (namely completely by the shorts) far more effective. Most performance shorts use a polyester material which stretches by design, but this can decrease height for lineout jumpers if they are being lifted solely by the shorts. This same basic complaint can occasionally be made come scrum down time when the tight five come together giving the cotton rugby short another reason for staying in service.

For all the benefits, there are a few major downsides when comparing cotton rugby shorts to performance rugby shorts.

The first con for the cotton rugby short is that they typically weigh more than performance rugby shorts. Comparatively speaking, cotton rugby shorts feel heavier and stodgier. Cotton rugby shorts also do not manage moisture very well and often hold onto rain/sweat to a far greater degree than performance rugby shorts. This only adds to the weight disparity and can feel like having a brick tied around your waist when compared to the lighter moisture managing fibers of the performance rugby shorts.

The second con is the fit and comfort of cotton rugby shorts compared to performance rugby shorts. Because of the rigorous demands put on rugby shorts in general, the cotton canvas material used for traditional cotton shorts is very rigid (though this can be diminished once they are broken in, much like jeans). This can be an issue for athletes with large legs, but smaller waists compared to their leg size. In order to have enough leg room for proper running mechanics (the leg hole does not catch on the thigh while sprinting) some rugby players have to buy much larger waist sizes to fit their legs properly. Different brands will have more problems with this than others, however, so this can be a brand by brand issue to a large degree.

The final issue is somewhat anecdotal as many will disagree, but in the editors experience cotton shorts do not hold up as well either. Given the rigid nature of the cotton shorts, there is very little room for ‘give’ when they are grabbed on to and this can cause tears in high pressure areas. This last point is very debatable, however, as if the stitching tension is off for stitching polyester performance shorts they basically become as durable as a wet paper bag.

The traditional cotton rugby short is a great option for those looking for a solid short for a reasonable price but that aren’t as concerned with short weight and the increased range of motion and fit of performance shorts. A great option for those new to the sport or for new teams looking to get kitted out or even for those that just like traditional lineout lifting techniques and the feel of traditional cotton shorts.

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World Rugby Shop has the best selection of both cotton rugby shorts and performance rugby shorts.

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