Exploring the Myth: Does Rugby Make You Tougher?

The sport of rugby has long been associated with toughness and physicality. But does playing rugby really make you tougher? This question has been debated by many, with some claiming that rugby builds resilience and grit, while others argue that it can lead to injuries and aggression. In this article, we will explore the myth of rugby making you tougher and examine the scientific evidence behind this claim. So, let’s dive in and find out if rugby really is the ultimate test of toughness.

The Physical Demands of Rugby


Rugby is a sport that requires a high level of endurance and speed. Players are required to run short distances, such as sprinting to the try line, and long distances, such as running up and down the field for the entire match. These short and long distance runs are interspersed with periods of intense activity, such as tackling and rucking, which can make running in rugby a challenging and physically demanding task.


Tackling is a crucial aspect of rugby and requires strength, agility, and technique. Players must be able to make tackles in a variety of situations, including one-on-one tackles, tackles in open space, and tackles in tight spaces. Tackling in rugby involves a combination of physical and mental skills, as players must be able to anticipate the movement of the ball carrier and execute a tackle with precision and force.


Scrums are a key part of rugby and involve a contest for possession of the ball between two teams. The scrum consists of three rows of players from each team, with the players pushing against each other in an attempt to gain possession of the ball. Scrums require a high level of technique and physicality, as players must be able to push and hold their position while maintaining a low center of gravity.


Mauls are another important aspect of rugby and involve the ball carrier being supported by their teammates as they move up the field. Mauls require a high level of teamwork and coordination, as players must work together to protect the ball carrier and move up the field. Players must also be able to maintain their position in the maul while under pressure from the opposing team.

In summary, rugby is a physically demanding sport that requires players to be skilled in a variety of areas, including running, tackling, scrums, and mauls. These physical demands of rugby can contribute to the development of physical toughness in players, but the extent to which rugby makes players tougher may depend on a variety of factors, including the individual player’s background and training.

Building Mental Toughness in Rugby

Key takeaway: Rugby is a physically and mentally demanding sport that requires a combination of physical and mental attributes to excel on the field. While the physical demands of rugby can contribute to the development of physical toughness in players, building mental toughness through goal setting, visualization, and handling pressure is equally important for success. Furthermore, injury is an inevitable part of any contact sport, and the manner in which players respond to injuries can provide valuable insight into their true level of toughness. Therefore, a holistic approach to player development that encompasses physical, mental, emotional, and psychological aspects is crucial for creating well-rounded players who can overcome adversity and achieve success on and off the field.

Handling Pressure

On-field Examples

In rugby, players are often under immense pressure to perform at their best, whether it’s during a crucial match or a critical moment in the game. Handling pressure is a key aspect of building mental toughness in rugby.

One example of this is when a player is tasked with taking a crucial conversion kick or penalty, which can determine the outcome of the game. The player must remain calm and focused, despite the intense pressure from their teammates, opponents, and the crowd.

Another example is during a scrum or ruck, where players must maintain their composure and positioning while facing intense physical pressure from the opposition. In these situations, mental toughness is crucial for success.

Off-field Strategies

Building mental toughness in rugby isn’t just about on-field performance. It also involves developing the ability to handle pressure off the field, such as during training, team meetings, and other events.

One strategy for handling pressure off the field is visualization. Players can visualize themselves performing well under pressure, imagining themselves making crucial plays or converting important kicks. This can help build confidence and reduce anxiety when faced with high-pressure situations.

Another strategy is mindfulness and meditation. These practices can help players stay focused, calm, and centered, even when faced with stress and pressure. By developing mental toughness off the field, players can better handle the pressure of on-field performance.

The Role of Conditioning in Rugby Performance

In order to become a skilled rugby player, it is essential to engage in specific conditioning practices that enhance both physical and mental attributes. This section will delve into the importance of strength and cardiovascular training for rugby performance.

Strength Training

Strength training is a crucial aspect of rugby conditioning as it builds the foundation for explosiveness, power, and endurance. It involves the use of weightlifting exercises that target different muscle groups, such as the legs, core, and upper body.

Compound exercises, which work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, are particularly effective in developing functional strength for rugby. Examples of compound exercises include squats, deadlifts, bench press, and rows. These exercises not only increase muscle mass but also improve muscular endurance, balance, and coordination.

Isolation exercises, on the other hand, focus on working a single muscle group at a time. While they may not be as effective in developing functional strength, they can help in targeting specific areas that require additional attention, such as the shoulders or arms. Examples of isolation exercises include bicep curls, tricep extensions, and calf raises.

Cardiovascular Training

Cardiovascular training is equally important in rugby conditioning as it enhances endurance, stamina, and overall fitness levels. Rugby is a high-intensity sport that requires players to be in top physical condition, with the ability to perform at maximum capacity for extended periods of time.

Intervals are a popular form of cardiovascular training in rugby, involving short bursts of intense activity followed by brief periods of rest. This type of training simulates the stop-start nature of rugby and helps players build up their cardiovascular endurance, allowing them to maintain high-intensity effort for longer periods of time.

Endurance training is also crucial in rugby, as it enables players to maintain their performance levels throughout the match. This can be achieved through long-distance running, swimming, or cycling, which build up the cardiovascular system and help players develop the necessary lung capacity and muscular endurance.

In conclusion, rugby conditioning involves a combination of strength and cardiovascular training, which work together to enhance physical attributes such as power, speed, and endurance. By incorporating both types of training into their fitness regimen, rugby players can develop the necessary skills and attributes to excel on the field.

The Psychological Aspect of Rugby

Goal Setting

Rugby, like any sport, requires a clear set of goals to achieve success. Players must set both short-term and long-term goals to maintain focus and motivation throughout their rugby career. Short-term goals can include winning a particular match or improving specific skills, while long-term goals can involve earning a place on a national team or achieving international success. By setting realistic and achievable goals, rugby players can measure their progress and develop a sense of accomplishment that fuels their motivation to continue training and competing.


Visualization is a powerful psychological tool used by many top athletes to improve their performance on the field. This technique involves mentally rehearsing specific situations or scenarios that may arise during a match. By visualizing potential outcomes and scenarios, rugby players can better prepare themselves for unexpected situations and develop a sense of confidence and control over their performance.

Mental rehearsal

Mental rehearsal is a key component of visualization in rugby. This technique involves mentally practicing specific skills or plays that are likely to occur during a match. By visualizing these scenarios, rugby players can improve their decision-making and reaction times, as well as build their confidence and self-esteem. Mental rehearsal can also help players develop coping strategies for adversity, such as handling injuries or losses, by visualizing potential outcomes and responses.


Research has shown that visualization can have a positive impact on sports performance, including reducing anxiety, enhancing motivation, and improving self-confidence. Visualization can also help rugby players develop a sense of control over their performance, allowing them to focus on their strengths and overcome their weaknesses. By incorporating visualization techniques into their training regimen, rugby players can develop a mental edge that can help them achieve success on the field.

The Effect of Injury on Toughness

Types of injuries

In rugby, injuries can range from soft tissue injuries such as sprains and strains to bone injuries such as fractures. Soft tissue injuries are typically caused by overuse or repetitive movements, while bone injuries can result from direct impact or collision.

Soft tissue injuries

Soft tissue injuries are common in rugby due to the high intensity and physical nature of the sport. Examples of soft tissue injuries include hamstring strains, ankle sprains, and shoulder injuries. These injuries can range from mild to severe and can impact a player’s ability to perform at their best.

Bone injuries

Bone injuries are less common in rugby but can be severe. Examples of bone injuries include fractures to the ribs, legs, and arms. These injuries can result from direct impact or collision and can require extended recovery time.


Recovering from an injury in rugby requires both mental and physical strength. Players must work to regain their physical abilities while also dealing with the mental aspect of being sidelined.

Mental aspect

The mental aspect of recovery is often overlooked but can be just as important as the physical aspect. Players must deal with the frustration of being sidelined, the uncertainty of when they will return to play, and the pressure to perform at their best once they do return. This can be a challenging process that requires mental toughness and resilience.

Physical aspect

The physical aspect of recovery involves rehabilitation and training to regain strength and mobility. Players must work with trainers and medical staff to develop a rehabilitation plan that is tailored to their specific injury. This can be a long and challenging process that requires dedication and perseverance.

Debunking the myth

  • Rejecting the notion that rugby fosters a greater level of toughness by examining the correlation between the frequency of injuries and the perceived toughness of players.
    • While rugby may expose individuals to a higher risk of injury, the mental and physical resilience required to recover from these injuries can be developed through various means outside of the sport.
    • Factors such as access to proper medical care, nutrition, and mental conditioning can significantly impact an individual’s ability to recover from injuries and maintain their toughness.
    • A comparative analysis of injuries in rugby and other sports suggests that the perception of rugby as a tough sport may be more attributed to the physical demands of the game rather than the sport itself creating a tougher individual.
    • Anecdotal evidence and studies on the long-term effects of concussions in rugby further undermine the claim that rugby makes individuals tougher.
    • It is important to consider the potential negative impacts of repeated injuries on a player’s physical and mental well-being, and to acknowledge that toughness is not solely defined by one’s ability to withstand injury.

The true measure of toughness

When considering the true measure of toughness, it is essential to look beyond the physical aspects of the game and delve deeper into the mental and emotional fortitude required to excel in rugby. Injuries are an inevitable part of any contact sport, and rugby is no exception. The manner in which an individual responds to an injury, both physically and mentally, can provide valuable insight into their true level of toughness.

Physical toughness is often synonymous with the ability to withstand pain and continue playing despite an injury. However, it is crucial to recognize that mental toughness plays a significant role in an athlete’s ability to overcome adversity and bounce back from injuries. The psychological resilience to cope with setbacks, maintain focus, and continue working towards goals despite physical limitations is a critical aspect of true toughness.

In rugby, mental toughness can be seen in how players react to challenges both on and off the field. The ability to stay composed under pressure, maintain concentration during crucial moments, and adapt to changing circumstances are all hallmarks of a mentally tough player. Furthermore, the capacity to learn from setbacks and use them as opportunities for growth is a defining characteristic of toughness in rugby players.

In conclusion, the true measure of toughness in rugby goes beyond physical durability and encompasses the mental and emotional fortitude required to overcome injuries, adversity, and setbacks. The resilience to bounce back from injury, maintain focus, and continue working towards goals is a testament to the true toughness of a rugby player.

Importance of holistic development

When considering the effect of injury on toughness, it is crucial to examine the concept of holistic development. This approach encompasses more than just physical prowess; it takes into account the mental, emotional, and psychological aspects of an individual’s growth and development.

In the context of rugby, holistic development is vital for creating well-rounded players who can not only withstand the physical demands of the sport but also maintain their mental fortitude in the face of adversity. This includes:

  • Emotional Resilience: Developing the ability to cope with setbacks, both on and off the field, is a crucial aspect of holistic development. Emotionally resilient individuals can bounce back from injury or loss, maintaining their focus and determination.
  • Mental Toughness: Mental toughness is the capacity to persevere through challenges, maintain concentration, and control one’s emotions. It is a crucial component of success in rugby, as it enables players to overcome obstacles and continue pushing themselves towards their goals, even when faced with adversity.
  • Psychological Adaptability: This refers to the ability to adjust one’s mindset and approach to different situations, both on and off the field. Psychologically adaptable individuals can modify their behavior and thought patterns in response to changing circumstances, helping them navigate the ups and downs of their rugby careers.
  • Physical Endurance: Holistic development also involves cultivating physical endurance, which is crucial for withstanding the physical demands of rugby. Players who are physically fit and enduring can better tolerate the rigors of training and competition, reducing their risk of injury and enhancing their overall performance.

By focusing on holistic development, rugby players can become tougher both mentally and physically, better equipped to handle the challenges that come with pursuing excellence in their sport. This comprehensive approach not only enhances their on-field performance but also helps them develop valuable life skills that they can carry with them long after their rugby careers have ended.


1. What is rugby?

Rugby is a sport that originated in England and is played by two teams of 15 players. The objective of the game is to score points by carrying the ball over the opponent’s goal line or by kicking it through the opponent’s goalposts.

2. What are the physical demands of rugby?

Rugby is a physically demanding sport that requires players to be in excellent physical condition. Players need to be strong, fast, and agile, and they need to be able to withstand hard hits and keep playing. Rugby also requires good hand-eye coordination and the ability to work well with teammates.

3. Can rugby make you tougher?

Rugby can certainly test your physical and mental toughness, but whether or not it makes you tougher depends on your definition of toughness. If you mean can rugby make you more resilient and able to handle challenges, then yes, it can. However, if you are asking if rugby will turn you into a fighter or someone who enjoys physical violence, then the answer is no. Rugby is a sport that promotes fair play and respect for opponents, and it teaches players to control their emotions and avoid unnecessary roughness.

4. Is rugby a dangerous sport?

Like any sport, rugby can be dangerous if players do not follow the rules and play safely. However, rugby has implemented many rules and regulations to minimize the risk of injury, and referees strictly enforce these rules to ensure the safety of all players. Additionally, many rugby clubs and teams place a strong emphasis on injury prevention and safety training.

5. Can anyone play rugby?

Rugby is a sport that is open to people of all ages and skill levels. While it may take some time and practice to learn the rules and techniques of the game, anyone can learn to play rugby with dedication and hard work. Many rugby clubs and teams have beginner programs and offer coaching and support to help new players get started.

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