What Is Rugby Called In Europe?

This article looks at what rugby is called in the main rugby-playing regions in Europe. These include:

  • UK
    • Wales
    • Scotland
    • England
  • Ireland and Northern Ireland
  • France
  • Italy

What Is Rugby Called In The UK

Although the United Kingdom is a country, three of its regions compete as separate teams in international rugby competitions.

The exception is Northern Ireland which joins the Republic of Ireland for an all-island team. We’ll cover these two regions in the next section.

Let’s take a look at the three rugby nations of the United Kingdom: Wales, Scotland, and England.

What is rugby called in Wales?

The Welsh have their own Celtic language. Even non-Welsh speakers in the region know how to say and spell the name for the sport.

The Welsh for rugby is “rygbi”.

It’s pronounced very similarly to the English world. However, the first syllable sounds more like “rig” than “rug”.

Apart than rygbi, you will also hear other names.

Because the sport of rugby league is also played in Wales, the Welsh sometimes use “Union” to refer to the fifteen-player game.

Wales competes on the international sevens tournament circuit. Fans of both codes will sometimes say “Fifteens” to distinguish from “Sevens”.

What is rugby called in Scotland?

The Scots also have a native language that is closer to Gaelic (Irish) than to Welsh. The language is known as Scots Gaelic. It is less commonly used in Scotland than Welsh in Wales.

The Scots Gaelic for rugby is “rugbaidh”.

As an Irish Gaelic speaker, I know that the last two letters here (dh) are silent. The “ai” is pronounced “ee”.

This means that the Scots Gaelic word is pronounced very similarly to the English word.

Why are the words so similar?

Both the Welsh and Scottish words are a direct translation of a placename – the town of Rugby in England. There is no attempt to translate a concept or meaningful word.

In contrast, football translates to “pel-droed” in Welsh. This comes from the two Welsh words for ball and foot.

Football translates to “ball-coise” (pronounced “bal cusha”). This comes from the Scots Gaelic words for ball and foot.

The translations for football sound quite different to  the original English because the words are being used for things – not a placename.

What is rugby called in England?

There are several nicknames in the region in which the sport originated.

Check out our article on what rugby is called in England.

We’ll explain how the term “rugger” entered into the vocabulary.

Ireland And Northern Ireland

We’ve got a separate article on what rugby is called in Ireland.

And if you’re curious about how two different countries play as one, check out our article on the joint anthem of Ireland’s Call.

What Is Rugby Called In France?

man in red beret looking quizzical

Rugby is commonly called “le rugby” in France.

It may also be called “le ballon ovale”, which means the oval ball.

Le rugby

This is simply a direct translation of the town in England that gave the English name to the sport. The French didn’t bother to come up with a different name.

The oldest governing body for the sport in the world is the Rugby Football Union in England, commonly abbreviated as the RFU.

The equivalent of the RFU in France is the FFR. This abbreviation stands for Federation Francaise de Rugby.

The French use “Federation” for Union but stick with “rugby”.

Le ballon ovale

As you’ve probably guessed, “le ballon” means a ball.

The noun is followed by the adjective “ovale” which translates in English to oval.

This term would be recognized by English speakers, although we might not be clear on whether the speaker is referring to rugby union or rugby league.

What Is Rugby Called In Italy?

The Italians simply call rugby “rugby” in their own language. They roll the r a lot more than an English speaker.

Rugby is sometimes called “palla ovale” in Italy. This means an oval ball.

Rugby league is less well known than the union version of the sport in Italy.

This means that if you hear the term “palla ovale”, the speaker is probably referring to the fifteen-player union game.

What About Elsewhere?

Check out these articles: