Why Don't Rugby Players Have Names on Shirts?
Although rugby and football both enjoy considerable popularity in the UK and beyond, there is no denying that the cultures of the two sports differ in many important ways. Indeed, for fans of both, it's these differences that make each sport so memorable, and most fans wouldn't want to alter the details that define the sporting experience.
One of the best examples of this is the fact that traditionally, it has always been uncommon for rugby players to wear their names on their jerseys, as is the norm in football and many other professional sports. If you don't play rugby, this might seem like an unusual custom - but the reasons behind it are embedded deep at the heart of rugby culture.
Here, we look at some of the reasons why rugby jerseys have not historically featured printed player names, to shed more light on the ethos behind rugby union and rugby league.
The key reasons why rugby shirts don't feature player names
Because the sport of rugby is separated into several different rulesets and competitions, it is important to remember that the approach to kit designs can vary significantly. For example, in rugby league's modern Super League, rugby shirt designs tend to be more contemporary, featuring sponsor logos and player names on jerseys similar to football. On the other hand, the kits used in rugby union international matches tend to be more traditional and understated, without player names.
What is the reason for this? There are several factors that might play into it:
Because of longstanding connections to the amateur game
Historically, rugby is a sport that has maintained a strong connection to its grassroots origins as an amateur game - or at very least, the perception is that rugby has a more down-to-earth culture than football, with its highly commercialised nature.
As such, the lack of player names can be explained by the fact that most teams at the lower levels - including school teams and amateur sides - would typically spend money providing custom named shirts for each member of their rugby team, instead purchasing a supply of numbered jerseys that can be easily handed out to different players, making it easy to reuse jerseys.
Although this budgetary limitation obviously doesn't exist for top-level professional teams - and certainly not international sides like England - it is possible that the tradition for avoiding named shirts comes from this convention from the early days of the sport.
Because players are identified by their number and position
Both rugby and football have a numbering system for the players on the team, but in rugby, squad numbers tend to have a lot more fixed significance. Whereas in football players can choose a set squad number according to their preference, in rugby it is much more common to have a jersey number assigned according to a specific position - in rugby union, for example, a number 10 will usually be a fly-half, a number 15 will be playing fullback, and anyone numbered above 16 will be a member of the reserves.
This means that players are much more likely to simply receive a number depending on where they are playing positionally, likely meaning they will wear different numbers if they are shifted to another position. This is why numbered shirts without names are more common in these circumstances.
To create more of a team-based ethos
Typically, rugby has been a sport that has always placed the greatest importance on the team, not the player. This means that the lack of printed names on their jerseys helps rugby players to embrace this team ethos, knowing that the team comes first. Having a jersey number assigned means that team members and match officials will still be able to identify each player and their position, meaning individual names are not necessary in this context.
Could rugby jerseys introduce player names in the future?
Although the lack of printed names is something of a tradition in rugby, there are signs that this could change in future. As mentioned, many rugby competitions have already introduced player names as part of more modern shirt designs, and many international sides - including the England rugby union side - are currently considering proposals to do the same during Test matches, as part of efforts to make the sport feel more contemporary and appeal to younger audiences.
Nevertheless, even if rugby jerseys of the future do end up changing to embrace a more modern look, if you're a fan of the old-school designs, TOFFS will always have you covered!
TOFFS has a vast selection of retro rugby shirts in a range of styles and sizes, inspired by the greatest rugby teams and clubs from throughout the ages. You can choose a rugby jersey design and number that represents your favourite player or era - all without any printed player names, in the traditional style. Simply order the shirt you want in the size you need, and have it delivered directly to your door!