Players From Other Sports That Could Play Rugby: Ronaldo, Bolt, Gronkowski, McGregor?

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NEW YORK, NY – There are precious few rugby players who have made a successful transition to another sport. Quade Cooper’s move into the boxing ring is looking like a farce, especially during that mismatch against a seriously out of shape Jack McInnes. Sonny Bill Williams, on the other hand, looks the part in the ring, remaining undefeated against proper opponents, and that’s about as high-profile as it gets.

But what about other sports stars that have tried their hand at rugby. Yes, there are a few, such as cricketer Liam Botham (son of Ian), but their success was often limited. So what about the current crop of world famous athletes? Could any make a successful career in rugby?

Let’s start with an easy one. Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo’s current rich vein of form sees his Real Madrid team priced by BetStars as the favorites to lift the Champions League, and there’s no doubt that their progress is largely down to the mercurial Portuguese. At 6’1″ and pretty well built he’s got just about the perfect physique for the fly-half position and with a boot that rarely misses, you’d bank on him making every conversion and penalty that comes his way. The only problem is his propensity to go down like a sack of potatoes at the most minor of touches. Weed that out of his game, and he just might be the perfect fly-half.

If we’re looking for height and strength in the lineout (Paul O’Connell style), then we head over to the NBA to poach LeBron James from the Cleveland Cavaliers. At 6’8” he’s not the tallest in the NBA, but his do or die approach to the game would guarantee him a start in our fantasy 15. And built like a man-mountain, he’d likely do a pretty good job in the scrum too.

We now head to the NFL for our next two picks.

Rob Gronkowski is a tight end for the New England Patriots, and his highlight reel consists of him evading tackles and making superb catches. He’s got plenty of pace, but it’s this ability to squirm his way through bodies and avoid tackles that would make him an excellent outside center. In fact, his teammate Nate Ebner, who himself played for the USA Sevens in Rio stated that the Gronk would have no trouble settling into rugby. He’s still only 27, so maybe we’ll see this one actually happen.

If that does happen, then maybe he could convince teammate Tom Brady to take up the hooker position. He’d have to have to learn how to use his feet in the scrum, but at least his lineout throws would be inch perfect.

We could stay with the NFL all day long, but instead, we’re heading for the Octagon and putting Conor McGregor in the number 9 jersey. A bit out of left field, but we honestly think he could do a pretty good job. He has an analytical mind, stating on many occasions that his fighting style is all about precision. This ‘think before you do’ attitude is perfect for the scrum half, as they dictate the flow of the game with their decisions. Think he’s too short? Well, he’s two inches taller that his compatriot Peter Stringer and we all know how good the former Munster and Ireland player is.

There are many more positions to fill, Usain Bolt at full-back, Anthony Joshua as a prop immediately spring to mind. But if someone could come up with a golfer or tennis player that would suit the game of rugby we’d be mightily impressed. Leave us your suggestions in the comments below.

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About the Author ()

Ciaran McEneaney knows his rugby... and other sports. He is an armchair expert of Olympic standard. From curling to extreme ironing, if it's on TV, he's watching it. Except baseball, a game where players can take a nap mid-game just doesn't make any sense.
  • Junoir Blaber

    Ronaldo to 10, Gronk to 8man, Bolt to wing and Mcgregor to Flanker. I think James could play 8 or be a game changing 12.

    • Bolt on a rugby pitch is the stuff of dreams

      • You could likely neutralize and even punish a Bolt or Ronaldo by constantly counter-attacking and forcing him to beat himself up tackling. That’s what they do to Carlin Isles on the 7s circuit. Sure, he’ll get his breaks but staying healthy will be a challenge. The Gronk on the other hand… Oh boy!

        • You could take your pick from the NFL but it would take some getting used to playing without the protection they’re used to.

  • Aaron

    Ronaldo wouldn’t have a chance. He’d stub his toe and cry like a babe.

    • You’re not wrong. But who would you have instead? Messi hasn’t got the physique for it. Bale? 🙂

      • They’d have to put some time in the gym as ruggers, that’s for sure. Different workout.

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