The Rugby World Cup is well under way, and the NFL season is just starting – this is a fantastic time of year! With Hayden Smith running around for the USA, there is one player there that has tasted the top of the tree in both sports. But is it surprising that only one has done so?
With rugby player’s size and power increasing year-on-year, and the elite professionalism that the game now has, I wouldn’t be surprised to know that some NFL scouts have an eye on their TV screens right now.
The similarities between the two sports are obvious. The tackle technique, ball handling skills, the way in which you score and the kick after: all are very closely linked. Whereas with the NFL, players will have one of those skillsets (defence or offence), in union you have to be able to do both.
Look at the way that running backs run – they put their shoulder down and try to power through, and they also put on some footwork. Then you look at the way a rugby player tries to make a break – footwork, power and strength. If you could compare the two I would say a Centre in rugby is equivalent to a Running Back in the NFL.
There are comparisons across the pitch. Look at a Tight End and a Number 8. Both have to be a jack of all trades – blocking, running and catching for a Tight End; breaking tackles, making tackles and getting to break downs for a Number 8.
Linebacker and Flanker, Lineman and Prop, Quarterback and Fly Half -each of these player’s jobs are similar in the two different codes.
Obviously the two glaring differences are that rugby players have to both defend and attack, whereas their American Football counterparts only do one or the other, and in rugby you can only pass backwards compared to the spectacular forward 50 yard passes you see in the NFL.
I think both sports can and do learn a lot from each other. What I would love to see is a second -tier competition in the NFL. Allowing for players to keep playing the sport they love if they are not quite up to the level of the elite, it would also allow other players to give it a crack.
What is for certain though is that I will continue to enjoy watching both sports and hope that someday both of my teams may win something (Scotland and the Buffalo Bills), here’s to hoping.