Why Do Rugby Players Shave Their Legs? (Explained)

Many professional rugby players shave their legs, and it’s becoming more common in amateur and social leagues. Players shave their legs to:

  • Prevent leg hair from being torn when removing strapping
  • Assist healing around wounds and injuries
  • Avoid skin irritation from frequent massages
  • Improve the appearance of muscles

Yes, the last reason is basically to “look good”. You may want to show off that muscle definition you worked hard for, but not actually admit your motivation! So, let’s tackle the other reasons first.

And then we’ll look at tips for rugby players who want to start shaving their legs.

Shaving For Tape And Strapping

Many rugby players take to the field with strapping around their thighs and lower legs. We covered the reasons in this article on why rugby players tape their thighs.

Take a look at this picture of a lock (second row) applying wide adhesive tape directly to skin. You can clearly see that he has shaved his legs. And for two good reasons!

Firstly, thick body hair makes it more difficult to get the adhesive to stick properly. You tend to need more and more adhesive tape to hold bandaging or padding in place.

Secondly, removing the adhesive tape from body hair will rip a lot of the hair from the skin. It’s not just that this is painful during the removal. It can cause ongoing skin irritation.

Shaving For Tape and Injuries

This reason is related to the previous section on using tape for regular strapping during a match.

Players sporadically get small cuts and gashes to their legs that may require stitches. Hairs around a wound can reduce the effectiveness of stitching.

Frequent Massages

Massages are a standard part of the regime of professional rugby players. Deep tissue massages apply a lot of pressure to muscles, but even regular sports massages can be heavy-handed on the player’s skin.

A pro rugby player may have a sports massage after every training session. Deep tissue massages may be less frequent. But players managing a strain or minor injury may get a deep tissue massage after every match.

Body hair can drag, chafe, and tear under the pressure of a massage. Shaving can prevent skin irritation with frequent massages. It should also help the masseur be more effective, particularly if the player is prone to thick body hair.

Why One Welsh Rugby Player Shaved His Legs

There’s no doubt that muscle definition is clearer on shaved legs. But there was a time when rugby players wouldn’t admit to being motivated by looks. Enter Gavin Henson. If you’re new to rugby, you may not remember the name. Let me fill you in…

Back in the early 2000s, British and Irish rugby fans started to notice that players at a particular Welsh club seemed to be…well…more interested in style and appearance than was usual in rugby. That club was Ospreys, and they were very strong at the time. When you’re playing well and beating all around you – that’s the time to row against the tide of machismo.

Gavin Henson was a young Ospreys back who spiked up his hair with gel and wore silver boots. At his best, he was a world-class player. But in 2005, he was just getting going at international rugby.

Henson was picked for Wale’s opening six nations match against England. Before the match, he gave an interview that described his pre-match ritual. He extolled the virtues of shaving his legs and applying fake tan.

And he gave a firm answer to the question as to why a rugby player shaves his legs.

I like to look good. If I look the part, it helps me to perform.”

Irish Independent 2005

There was a lot of scoffing and guffawing amongst rival supporters.

Henson delivers

But Henson put in a stellar defensive performance in the test match against England. In a famous tackle, he lifted the opposing center from the ground and drove him halfway back down the field. At least, that’s my memory from watching and laughing in astonishment.

He then stepped up and kicked the match-winning penalty for Wales.

Henson went on to have a high-profile but injury-blighted playing career. It was fashionable to knock him when he was struggling with form, but he was a mighty good rugby player.

Shaving Legs Is Not Necessary To Avoid Being Hurt When Tackled

I saw a question on a rugby forum from a youngster wanting to join up with a rugby club and play for the first time. He asked if it was necessary to shave his legs.

“Should I do it? Is it because the leg hairs get ripped out when I’m tackled?”

No, this doesn’t happen. Rugby players shave their legs for all the reasons I’ve mentioned above. But not because the tackler ends up with a fistful of your leg hair! Think about it – I doubt you could even pull out your own hair, even if you really tried.

Unless you’re this guy, playing at outside flanker.

How Do Rugby Players Shave Their Legs? Some Tips

First of all, it’s important to point out that shaving legs incompetently can cause an injury.

Take Marco Ascensio, a soccer player for the superstar club Real Madrid. He had to miss an important match due to a botched shaving attempt. News media reported that he picked up an infection.

Poor Marco may not even have shaved poorly. One cause of infection is storing razors unboxed in a bathroom or shower. Rust and bacteria start to accumulate in these favorable conditions.

I’m not going to give a step-by-step guide here. Instead, I’ll point you toward advice from Wilkinsons.

Nothing to do with Johnny (of England Rugby fame). Wilkinsons is a company that knows a thing or two about shaving. They appear to know less about rugby. Ignore their claim that rugby players shave their legs to be harder to grapple in a tackle.

Waxing Or Laser Hair Removal For Rugby Players

You may find that you have to shave several times a week, which can be a chore. Shaving can lead to itchy legs. Even worse is the danger of ingrown hairs.

Waxing will keep the hair off for longer. The drawback is that it is more painful.

Professional rugby players may opt for laser hair removal, which is close to being permanent. However, this option is expensive.