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.