What Do Rugby Players Wear?

IRB London Sevens - Day Two

Rugby is a rough, full contact sport that takes a toll on the body. Despite the rough nature of the game, the protective gear worn by players is minimal compared to other contact sports like football or hockey. What little equipment rugby players wear is designed to hold up to the physical nature of the game and to protect players' bodies.


The traditional rugby jersey was made with heavy, cotton fabric designed to hold up to players pulling and tugging at the shirt. The modern rugby jersey is made from cotton blended with lightweight, polyester that is strong enough to handle the game's roughness. Jerseys are typically tight-fitting, making it difficult for opponents to grip a player by the shirt.


Like jerseys, shorts were traditionally made of heavy cotton materials to handle the strain of the game. Modern shorts are made of cotton-and-polyester blends. Second row forwards -- who play the No. 11 and No. 12 forward positions and make up the second row of the scrum -- are hoisted in the air by their shorts to catch the ball during a line-out, so their shorts contain reinforced stitching.


Rugby players wear different boots, or cleats, depending on the position that they play. Players in the back positions -- who are known for their speed and agility -- tend to wear low-cut boots that allow free movement of the ankles. Forwards tend to wear boots with more ankle support, which helps them during scrums -- a method of restarting play in which the teams lock arms and push against each other while attempting to play the ball with their feet. All rugby boots have studs, made of metal or plastic, that allow the player to grip the turf.

Mouth Guard

Mouth guards are designed to protect the player's teeth, gums and jaw and to cushion the impact if your head takes a blow -- thereby reducing the chances of a concussion. Mouth guards should be molded to a player's teeth; "boil in a bag" mouth guards allow you to do this at home, or you can get a customized mouth guard from a dentist.


Rugby players wear knee-length socks, similar to those worn by soccer players. These socks are usually made of cotton and are tight enough to stay up without support, coming up to the point just below the knee. They can be worn in a variety of colors, typically matching a team's uniform. These provide some protection to the legs, but are largely worn for the sake of style and tradition.

Optional Equipment

Rugby players have the option of wearing helmets. Unlike football helmets, rugby helmets are made of soft plastics and provide minimal protection from impacts. They are usually worn by forwards to protect their head and ears in the scrum. Players can also wear lightweight shoulder pads. These pads provide protection from tackles but are much lighter than even the lightest football pads. Rugby helmets and pads can be purchased from most sporting goods stores that carry rugby equipment.