2nd November 2017.What sport provides more of a raw challenge than rugby? Even American football, a distant cousin to rugby and with its fair share of rough handling, doesn't match the level of full contact aggression you'll find in rugby. That's part of what makes it so appealing. Not only is every hard-fought victory that much sweeter, but the physical strength required to play the game on a regular basis demands robust physical fitness. That demand provides plenty of motivation to stay fit so that when it's your time to shine on the pitch, you can make the big plays and win the day. Before you can do that, however, you'll need to make sure you've got the proper gear. From the clothes on your back to the guard in your mouth, there's a lot that goes into a good rugby kit. What should you focus on, and what types of items are the most important to have? It's worth taking the time to consider carefully what you'll need to enjoy the game while also staying safe. It's all too easy to injure yourself in a scrum, after all, and no one wants to be out of commission for weeks! Choosing the right kit involves considering what you need most. Let's take a closer look at what a typical rugby player uses.

Get the basic clothing right first

The look of a rugby player is iconic ? so that's the place you should always begin. A good jersey that fits well is the first order of business. Your primary decision will come down to how tightly you wish it to fit and whether you want a collar. The traditional look features a larger collar, but some players dislike this as it provides another place for opposing team members to grasp your jersey. It?s mostly personal preference, but comfort also comes into play as well. Jerseys using a polyester blend will "breathe" more easily while also holding their colours longer; cotton tends to absorb too much sweat and can feel uncomfortable. Also, consider that you may not always play in warm weather. Use a thin base layer to help conserve body heat in cold seasons. In warmer weather, base layers can help to cut down on painful chafing. You may also wish to grab a comfy hoodie to wear on the sidelines; it can help you to stay warmed up while also prevent a chill during windy evening games.

A well-fitting mouthguard is indispensable

Taking a few knocks in the game is inevitable ? but knocks don?t necessarily mean injuries. One of the most important ways you can protect your body is by wearing a mouthguard, sometimes called a gum guard. Injuries to your teeth can happen suddenly and without warning because of a high impact or massive collision with another player. The ways it can occur are numerous, but the result is the same: an emergency trip to the dentist and a hefty bill. Wearing a mouthguard can help to prevent that problem altogether. Did you know they can also contribute to a reduced risk for concussions? To get the most use out of your mouthguard, consider having one custom-made to fit the shape of your mouth. While generic guards you can purchase at a store will yield excellent protection regardless, a guard that fits the natural contours of your mouth will offer even better safety. Choose one that feels the most comfortable to you, and don't forget to wear it during every game.

Protect your feet with rugged rugby boots

Just like your mouth, your feet need protection as well. Developing power and strength that you can use with your feet is important, too, and you'll need rugby boots that match the demands of the positions you play. For most positions, choose a boot with studs that can screw in; this way, you can change them as you like and find the perfect combination of speed and grip. If you play in a forward position, you'll use your feet to push your body forward into some difficult spots. Look for boots that provide enhanced ankle protection and cushioning to protect your feet from injury. Do you tend to kick often? Choose boots that fit much more tightly. A snug boot will ensure you can exercise full control over the ball as you kick. Too loose and you will struggle to feel exactly where you make contact, ensuring you won't always place the ball exactly where you want. Overall, look for support and adaptability in your shoes. Don't be afraid to buy several pairs, in case you need to rotate positions.

Find a scrum cap with personality and comfort

Why wear a scrum cap? It's not about protecting your head from concussions; that's a risk that remains inherent in rugby. A cap just does not provide enough of a cushion, like an American football helmet might, to help mitigate the danger of a concussion. Instead, scrum caps are all about keeping your ears safe from injury. It's not an uncommon occurrence, especially in the frantic pile of a scrum ? there are all kinds of ways your ears can suffer from injury. Over time, this leads to the well-known swelling and scarring known as "cauliflower ears" from which rugby players often experience. Wearing a scrum cap that fits tightly over your ears will help reduce the risk of such an injury. You will still be able to hear and communicate well, but it is much less likely that your ear will be in harm's way. Plus, it's also an opportunity to keep your head warm and to express a bit of personality with a cool design.

Choose shoulder pads to gain extra protection

For those who do want some more protection for their bodies, though, shoulder pads continue to grow in popularity among rugby players as more rules allow for their use. Shoulder pads usually consist of a garment worn underneath your jersey, featuring small padded sections directly on the top of each shoulder which allows your body to absorb the impact of leading with your shoulder with improved efficiency. While they won't entirely prevent the possibility of injury, they will help to reduce the risk of wrenching your shoulder. There's also something to be said for the feelingof having greater protection ? it might inspire you to make some bold plays you wouldn't attempt otherwise! Make sure that you choose pads that adhere to the rules played in your league, as there is often a limit to how much padding is legal.

A good rugby bag makes transportation easier

With all this gear, you will need some way to transport it from your home to the pitch and back. Throw in an extra pair of clothes to change into after the game, and you have more than you'll want to carry in your arms. That's where a solid rugby bag becomes especially handy. You can carefully pack in everything you need before you leave the house and have everything ready to go by game time. A spacious bag also gives you the chance to pack some other items: perhaps a first aid kit, your phone charger, a bottle of water, or even some energy snacks. Look for a bag with sturdy straps, plenty of space inside, and enough pockets to carry your accessories. Don't forget to empty your items out after every game ? never let your damp rugby clothes sit inside your bag, or they may begin to mildew. To help cut down on odours, buy an odour-neutralising spray or air fresheners you can leave on the inside.

Gather your items and get ready to hit the pitch

No one wants to show up for a sporting event unprepared; that's true whether you're a swimmer, a tennis player, or a rugby fanatic. Take the time to consider your personal needs regarding the items listed above. Whether you choose to go for the professional fitting of a custom mouthguard or you want to find a scrum cap that's comfortable and cosy, you'll find there's no shortage of options out there! Pay a visit to your local athletics store to scope out some options, or shop online from the comfort of home. Before long, you'll have the perfect kit ready for your next game day.