Rugby balls come in three sizes, many different qualities and are have many different brands. The ball is oval or egg shaped. The ball originally was constructed using a pig's bladder and because they had a tendency to be oval shaped, that is how the design developed. It was William Webb Ellis that first caught and ran with a ball, whilst at Rugby School, against the rules at that time, was thought to be the first resemblance to the modern game. At that time, the three football codes had not been split (Football, Union and League).
Blowing the ball up was not a pleasant task, as the ball was still in its early stage and was starting to smell quite badly. The early balls had no set size as it was governed by how big the pig's bladder was.
The rugby ball comes in 4 sizes and is suitable for use by the following age groups:-
- Size 3 Mini rugby age groups - under 7, u8 and u9.
- Size 4 – Junior rugby – age groups – Under 10, u11, u12, u13 and u14.
- Size 4.5 – Women's rugby – age groups – Under 15 and above, into senior rugby.
- Size 5 – Full sized rugby – age groups – Under 15 and above, into senior rugby.
There are a few major manufacturers of rugby ball:-
- Webb Ellis
and many more own label ones:-
- The list is endless but, I am sure you get the picture.
The types of ball are categorised as recreational, training and match balls. There are also all weather variations of each ball. The variations in design in most cases are cosmetic but, the type of material used defines the use as a match or training ball. Every ball has bumps or raised dimples, this gives the player a better feel and improves the grip on the ball. The configuration varies greatly from each manufacturer.
The laws of Rugby Union state the balls must be oval in shape and made from 4 panels. For a size 5 Rugby ball, the length should be between 280mm to 300mm, the length circumference 740mm to 770mm and the width circumference is 580mm to 620mm. It may be treated to make it water resistant, making it easier to grip. The weight of the ball when new should range between 410g to 460g with an optimum ball pressure of 9.5 to 10 PSI.
The laws of Rugby League state the balls shall be an oval air inflated ball. the outer cover to be leather or another material approved by the International Board. The dimensions of the ball shall be those approved by the International Board which are length 280mm to 300mm, width circumference of 610mm and a weight of 383g to 440g. Rugby League Officials suggest the balls are slightly flatter and more pointed than Rugby Union Balls
Manufacturers spend thousands of pounds developing and producing balls that will hopefully grace the big stage. They spend even more on advertising and sponsoring players, clubs, leagues and National teams worldwide. Gilbert, Mitre and Webb Ellis are the three biggest rugby ball manufacturers in the world. Gilbert supply all of the home nations with their match and training balls. Mitre used to have the contract with Italy and Webb Ellis used to have the contract with Wales. Lusum however, have no marketing budget and produce the same quality rugby balls but are priced around 25% cheaper and as such the saving from no marketing budget is passed directly to grassroots rugby.
Typical dimensions for rugby balls are as follows:-
Size 5 - Length – 285mm, Circ Length 752mm, Girth 585mm
Size 4 - Length – 275mm, Circ Length 720mm, Girth 555mm
Size 3 - Length – 255mm, Circ Length 680mm, Girth 540mm
Midi - Length – 225mm, Circ Length 580mm, Girth 525mm
Mini - Length – 160mm, Circ Length 410mm, Girth 315mm
Promo Sz 10 - Length – 420mm, Circ Length 1140mm, Girth 880mm
Gilbert are now the official supplier to the England rugby teams and have been producing rugby balls for over 180 years