Are you ready for an in-depth exploration of the rugby ball - an iconic element of one of the most dynamic sports in the world? 

As enthusiasts and experts at UK Rugby Store, we aim to deepen your understanding of this fascinating piece of equipment. 

We'll delve into its history, design, and evolution, revealing how it has shaped the game of rugby. 

So, what is the rugby ball called? Let’s find out! 

What this article covers:

Rugby Ball Definition 

The ball used in rugby is simply referred to as a "rugby ball." This key element of the sport has undergone significant transformations since its inception. 

The rugby ball's unique shape and varied sizes symbolises the sport's rich heritage and ongoing innovation. 

Initially made from pig bladders and later evolving into the oval shape we recognize today, the rugby ball has been a central part of the game's development. The oval shape, a result of the materials used and the game's evolution, is essential for the dynamic play that rugby is known for. More on this below. 

rugby ball called

Top Rugby Ball FAQs 

What Is The Evolution Of The Rugby Ball?

The rugby ball's journey from a simple pig bladder to the high-tech marvel it is today mirrors the sport's evolution. William Gilbert, a bootmaker near Rugby School, began making these balls in 1823. 

Richard Lindon, another key figure in the development of the rugby ball, introduced rubber bladders in the 1870s, which led to the more recognizable oval shape.

The evolution of the rugby ball is not just about its shape and material but also its role in the game. With advancements in technology, we may soon see rugby balls equipped with sensors, providing real-time data on speed, trajectory, and spin. 

How Is A Rugby Ball Made?

Creating a rugby ball involves meticulous steps to meet sports standards. 

Modern rugby balls, answering the question "what are rugby balls made of?" are typically constructed from synthetic materials, which offer durability and better grip. The process begins with designing and stitching the four panels that make up the ball.  

A rubber bladder is inserted for air, and the textured exterior enhances grip. This detailed process ensures high-quality balls for training or professional matches. This includes those in our UK Rugby Store selection used by top international teams, such as the Scotland RU Rugby Ball, offering players at all levels the best experience. 

Why Is The Rugby Ball An Oval Shape?

The rugby ball's distinctive oval shape is both a product of its historical materials and a functional design for the sport. Early rugby balls, made from pig bladders, naturally took on an oval shape. 

This shape has been retained and refined over the years, facilitating easier passing and catching, crucial for the fluid and fast-paced nature of rugby. 

What Are The Different Sizes Of Rugby Balls?

Rugby balls come in various sizes to accommodate players of different ages and skill levels. The standard sizes, as recognized by World Rugby, are:

  • Size 3: Designed for younger players under the age of 9.
  • Size 4: Recommended for players between 9 and 14 years of age.
  • Size 5: The standard size used in adult rugby and international competitions, suitable for players aged 15 and above.

Choosing the right size is crucial as it affects the players' control, accuracy, and overall performance. Factors like hand size, playing position, and skill level play a role in determining the ideal ball size for each player.

what is rugby ball called

What Are The Origins Of The Rugby Ball?

The origins of the rugby ball are deeply rooted in the sport's history. As mentioned, the early versions of the rugby ball were crafted using pig bladders, which naturally took on an oval shape when inflated. 

This practice dates back to the early 19th century, with William Gilbert and Richard Lindon being pivotal figures in the development of the rugby ball. Their innovations in materials and design helped shape the ball into what we recognize today. 

Despite Lindon's significant contributions, he did not patent his designs, which is why the Gilbert name is more commonly associated with rugby balls today. 

The evolution of the rugby ball from these humble beginnings to the sophisticated equipment of the modern game is a testament to the sport's development over the centuries.

How Did Rugby Get Its Name? 

The name "Rugby" for both the sport and the town in Warwickshire, Britain, has an intriguing origin that intertwines linguistic and sporting history. 

The town's name, Rugby, derives from the Anglo-Saxon term "Hrōca burh." Here, "Hrōca" could be either a man's name or the Old English word for "rook," while "burh" translates to "fortified settlement." Over time, influenced by Danish settlers in the 13th century, "burh" was replaced with the Old Norse "-by," meaning "village," leading to the modern name, Rugby.

According to popular legend, a pupil named William Webb Ellis made a significant and rule-breaking decision during a football match in 1823 at Rugby School in Warwickshire. He caught the ball and ran with it instead of following the traditional practice of kicking or throwing it. 

This act of innovation or rebellion laid the groundwork for a new game distinct from the existing forms of football. The game quickly became popular among the students. It was naturally referred to as "Rugby football," named after the school and town where this pivotal moment occurred.

While widely circulated and celebrated, the story isn't universally accepted as the definitive origin of rugby football. Historical accuracy aside, this narrative has become deeply embedded in rugby culture and is commemorated by a statue of William Webb Ellis at Rugby School. 

Rugby has evolved from its early days at Rugby School, witnessing rule development, global expansion, and a subsequent split into rugby union and rugby league. 

Despite these changes, the name "Rugby" has remained constant, reflecting the sport's rich history, blending innovation, tradition, and cultural evolution, originating from a small English town and a pivotal moment of inspiration on the playing field. 

match ball rugby

Is There A Difference Between A Rugby Ball And A Rugby League Ball?

Rugby union and rugby league balls differ subtly but significantly. The rugby league ball, being slightly larger and more pointed, is designed for longer kicks in the open style of play in the 13-player variant. 

In contrast, rugby union balls, used in the 15-player version, are smaller and less pointed, enabling easier handling and passing in the closer quarters of union play.

At UK Rugby Store, we cater to both rugby union and rugby league enthusiasts, offering a variety of balls such as the Wales RU Rugby Ball, Ireland RFU Rugby Ball, and the England RFU Rugby Ball each tailored to the specific needs of the game.


The rugby ball, with its rich history and intricate design, is more than just a piece of sports equipment; it is a symbol of the enduring spirit and evolving nature of the game. 

From the early days of pig bladders to modern synthetic marvels, the rugby match ball has evolved to meet the demands of this dynamic sport. 

Whether you play rugby union or rugby league, understanding the nuances of the rugby ball can enhance your appreciation and performance in the game. 

At UK Rugby Store, we are proud to offer a wide range of high-quality, official rugby balls from the world's leading clubs and international teams. 

We invite you to explore our collection and experience the best in rugby equipment. Shop now at UK Rugby Store and elevate your game with our top-notch rugby balls!

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January 17, 2024 — Alex Taylor