The Essentials – what you MUST have

The kit you need depends on what type of rugby you’re going to be playing. Non-contact forms just involve fitness, running and quick thinking, so you can play in pretty much any exercise clothing you feel comfy in. However, the 15-a-side game involves full physical contact, so you’ll need to kit yourself out more fully.

Here’s a useful checklist: 

Rugby boots

Ground zero for rugby kit. Absolutely essential. Can’t you just wear football boots? Well, possibly – but while rugby boots look a bit like football boots, if they’ve got the wrong sort of studs, they can cause injuries and make you very unpopular. So just to be clear, the RFU (Rugby’s ruling body) has set out some very firm rules. Basically, a rugby stud should usually be made of rubber or a metal like aluminium, not longer than 21mm, at least 10mm across at the end and with no burrs or sharp edges.

You’ll hear some people saying they play with plastic studs or blades, but it’s worth knowing that the referee WILL check studs for safety before every match, and if he’s not happy with yours, you won’t be allowed to play. What’s more, blades are unlikely to give you enough grip to push your opponents off the ball or change direction at speed, anyway. So it’s worth investing in a pair that will protect you, your team mates and your opponents. To avoid any doubt, go for designs specifically labelled as “rugby boots”.


If you do buy plastic studs, walking on concrete or tarmac in them can cause sharp welts on the edges, so best to keep away from the hard ground.

It’s also a good idea to invest in a size 10 spanner to make sure your studs are nice and tight before each game so you don’t lose one.


Another absolute essential – at some point you will get a whack in the mouth playing rugby. It’s unavoidable. But what IS avoidable is an expensive dentist’s repair bill. Not only that, but gumshields are proven to prevent concussion in the tackle, by adding a layer of cushioning between the teeth. So buy the closest size to fit your mouth, then follow the instructions on the packaging to make it a snug, safe fit.

Rugby shorts

These need to be made of tougher material than for other sports – if they get ripped it could be embarrassing! So make sure you specifically ask for “rugby shorts”.

Rugby Training top

Your match shirt will probably be provided by your team or club, but for training games you’ll need a shirt or top made from tough, tear-resistant material. Give it a tug in the shop. If you can imagine a 20 stone prop tearing it, don’t buy it.

Rugby socks

Should be long and warm and made from breathable, wear-resistant material, with firm elastication below the knee and round the middle of the foot to prevent slipping off.

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Some forwards (and also the odd back) wear a scrum cap to protect against cuts and to shield the ears from injury in the scrum, rucks or the tackle. On the other hand, some players feel it makes them less aware of what’s going on around them, and most happily play their whole careers without one, so it’s really a personal choice whether you wear one. Nobody will think less of you whether you have a scrum cap or not, so if it makes you more confident, buckle up.

Rugby Shoulder pads

Quite a few people like a bit of extra padding on their shoulders when they make tackles. However, some coaches say that if you learn a good tackling technique from the outset, you’re less likely to get injured in the long term. And while padding can take a bit of the pain out of a mistimed tackle, it might make you a little more careless. So it’s up to you. As long as you buy padding that’s within the rules of rugby though (no hard plastics – they must be made from firm, squashy material).

Ankle supports

Useful if you’re in the forwards. A kick on the ankle bone can make your eyes water! And the whole point of rugby is to pretend you aren’t hurt – it’s not football!

If you choose to wear them though, they must be under the socks and no more than a third of the length of your shin.

Rugby Mitts (fingerless gloves)

Particularly if you’re playing in the backs, your hands may get cold and wet in bad weather, and chances to get your hands on the ball may be few and far between. You don’t want to be that person who drops the ball after your team has worked you into position for a certain try! So a pair of fingerless, buttonless, stretchy mitts with a soft rubber grip may help you to make the most of those chances. Full-finger gloves are not allowed in contact rugby, but you can get away with some types if you’re playing non-contact.


This can take the form of elasticated bandages, surgical tape and electrical tape (which is waterproof). Elasticated bandages are ideal for supporting joints and surgical tape is good for fingers. If you’re playing in the scrum (the forwards), you might want to tape round your head and your ears. For this, you’ll need a bandage and electrical tape.

Base layers

Upper body base layers are allowed for all rugby players, as long as the comply with World Rugby

. Under 18s are also allowed to wear leggings and tights, as long as the comply with the regulations.

Additional rugby gear for women

Chest pads

Women are allowed to wear soft chest pads under their shirt.


Cotton blend long tights, with a single inside leg seam, can be worn under shorts and socks.


Can be worn as long as they don’t cause a danger to you or other players.

NOTE: Before buying any kit for rugby, check that it is compliant with the RUGBY FOOTBALL UNION rules – this will sometimes be shown as an “Approved World Rugby” logo.

Detailed information on what clothing is compliant with the laws of rugby can be found at the RFU’s s Law 4 and Regulation 12.