This questions has been asked here (literally) hundreds of times. The answer depends on what you mean by "tougher"?
Briefly put, the nature and purpose of the tackles/breakdowns are fundamentally different in the two sports. In rugby the tackler's purpose is to change possession of the ball by...
Best answer: This questions has been asked here (literally) hundreds of times. The answer depends on what you mean by "tougher"?
Briefly put, the nature and purpose of the tackles/breakdowns are fundamentally different in the two sports. In rugby the tackler's purpose is to change possession of the ball by poaching it from the tackled player, who must release it once he is off his feet. This makes it imperative for the tackler to remain on his feet. In American football (with the downs-for-distance system) the purpose is to stop the defender from making any forward progress. Because there is little chance of turning the ball over, American football tacklers are more akin to battering rams, using their own momentum to stop the runner without worrying about their body position afterwords.
The laws are also different. In rugby you cannot lead with your head (not that you would want to) or shoulder charge the ball carrier. The defender must also make some attempt to wrap their arms around the runner. No such rules apply in American football, where the helmets are used as much as weapons as they are for head protection. Not that much protection either, given the incidence of early-onset dementia among ex-NFL players.
There is also the danger of being blindsided in American football – quarterbacks and receivers can be so focused on the play down (or up) field that they don’t see or hear the tackler approaching them from behind. Because the offside law in rugby requires the ball carrier to be the lead man on his side, blindside hits are very rare.
So yes, individual hits do come harder in the NFL, and career-ending (not to mention life-threatening) injuries are more common.
But on the other hand, a rugby squad will make (literally again) over one hundred tackles during a match, as opposed to the 20 to 30 that a football squad will make. Rugby players don't get a breather after every tackle and (almost) all substitutions are permanent. That means that of your starting side of 22 players, at least 8 must be on the pitch for the entire 80 minute match. Your biggest, slowest prop on a rugby squad is still going to have to cover five or six miles on the pitch during a match, while some football linemen will cover more distance running to and from the bench than they will while the ball is actually live. There is a reason why professional rugby players max out at about 280 lbs – it is impossible for a man larger than that to be “fit” enough to play rugby.
So, if by tougher, you mean who can deal with fatigue and the pain which comes from the lactic acid building up in your thighs over 80 minutes of pretty much continuous play, with no chance of a rest on the bench and while dealing out and taking what are still some pretty hard knocks, then it is the rugby player who "wins" this little competition.
3 months ago