On 11 April 1928, Ards Rugby Football Club was formed at meeting in Newtownards Academy pavilion. The first game was played on 13 October 1928. Ards RFC played most of their early years in the Ulster junior leagues
In 1977-1978 season Ards achieved Senior status when they were elected to the Ulster Senior League. After a downturn in fortunes in the 1990s they spent a second period in the Junior leagues. However, in 2002-2003 season Ards 1st XV won through the AIB All Ireland Qualifying round robin and were promoted for a second time, to AIB All Ireland League Division 3. They continue to play in AIL senior rugby finishing in ninth place in 2006-07.