Rugby League players will be starting to think about the end of their season, yet for Rugby Union players, the season is just about to start. The two Rugby codes vary in terms of rules and playing style, and the differences impact upon the most suitable rugby boots for you as well.
The main thing to emphasise in terms of the size is that you'll be wearing the boots with thick rugby socks. Therefore when trying the boots on for the first time, make sure you wear your rugby socks to ensure that you end up with the right fit. If you wear your everyday socks, the boot may feel too tight when you come to play in them for the first time.
This is one of the main differences between the most suitable boots for Rugby Union and Rugby League players. Rugby Union, as a winter sport, is often played on very soft ground. Whilst heavy or persistant rain can make the ground conditions soft in the summer too, Rugby League players would expect to play on firmer surfaces than their Union counterparts. In particular, this will influence the type of stud that is most suitable for the conditions.
There are various rules relating to the design and construction of studs, including a maximum length of 21mm for Rugby Union players. At Decathlon we sell both 18mm metal studs and 13mm rubber studs. Both the length and material of the studs will influence their suitability. Longer studs help to provide increased grip on softer surfaces, whilst on firmer surfaces a shorter stud can help with your speed and changes in direction. Equally, the inflexibility of a metal stud will provide extra grip, whilst the minor flexibility of a rubber stud will again improve speed and changes in direction. The best advice is to buy both shorter and longer studs and then change as necessary according to conditions for optimal performance. Remember to ensure your studs are tight and in good condition with no sharp edges before each game - not only will this help your performance, it is for the safety of the other players on the pitch too.
Over the past 20 years, the use of rubber blades rather than studs has become increasingly popular, developing on traditional moulded studs. There are a few advantages to moulded studs and blades as opposed to screw-in studs. The most basic is that the studs do not get loose - this is more of a matter of convenience really, as regularly checking screw-in studs can prevent this from being a problem. If you're looking to play Rugby and Football but don't want the expense of two pairs of boots, blades or moulded studs mean that you don't have to change the studs each time.
From a performance perspective, blades can help in terms of speed and movement, and provide a good level of grip on firmer surfaces. The major downside is the inflexibility of the fixed blade or stud length, which can be a problem particularly on softer ground. Therefore blades and moulded studs are perhaps more suitable for Rugby League players than Union players, but can be an option in both codes, particularly for the backs.
Position and role in the team are very important in identifying the right pair of boots. As a Union forward, rucks, mauls and scrummages will be a major part of your game. In these situations, there are two features that will be particularly important - grip and protection. Slipping is not only inconvenient but can be dangerous for yourself and others, so maximum grip is essential. Forwards will commonly wear longer studs than their counterparts in the backs for this reason. Protection comes in various forms, and the strength of the upper of the boot is a key one. In tight forward play, teammates and opponents will tread on your feet fairly regularly, and therefore the more protection your boots provide, the lower the risk of injury. Some forwards also favour a higher cut on the boot to provide additional ankle support. Whilst rucking, mauling and scrummaging are either not present or not as important in Rugby League, good grip and protection will still be important to help the forwards make the hard yards.
In both codes, backs will have different requirements from boots. Whilst protection and grip will still be important, straight-line speed and the ability to change direction quickly will be more important than for forwards. Therefore a slightly lighter boot and shorter studs will help meet these needs. For regular or occasional kickers, good feel for the ball is also crucial, so a lighter, thinner upper will be necessary to provide this feel and ensure accuracy when kicking.
Football boots are permitted within the rules, provided the studs are legal. If you are using screw-in studs, you will need to switch studs every time you switch sport, but otherwise you will be allowed to wear the same pair of boots for both Football and Rugby. The question is, should you? After all, the market for football boots is bigger than for rugby boots, giving you more choice. The main issue to consider is the compromise between feel and protection from the upper. Football boots highly prioritise feel over protection, meaning that football boots are generally lighter and definitely help you to kick with greater accuracy, so can be worth considering if kicking is a regular part of your game. If you are not a regular kicker however, it will be more useful to have the extra protection afforded by a rugby boot. One final aspect to consider is whether you intend to play both Rugby and Football in the same pair of boots. If this is the case, it is arguably easier to play Rugby in football boots rather than the other way round.
As always, factors such as fit and price will be important for you, but beyond this two major factors should influence your decision about which pair of rugby boots to buy. The first will be the ground conditions - over the season will moulded studs or blades be sufficient, or will you require the flexibility of screw-in studs? The second is to assess your role in the team - what features will be the most valuable in your game, protection and grip or speed and precision? Once you are able to answer these questions, you will be able to identify a pair of boots that will be able to meet your needs.
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