Sonny Bill Williams & Quade Cooper

It's a knockout! Sonny Bill Williams and Quade Cooper are all smiles as they announce their respective boxing bouts

By Al Dymock

HE’S ONLY gone and done it. Quade Cooper has made his mind up about leaving rugby union so as to follow his dream of becoming a full-time pugilist.

It might seem a bit of a stretch for someone who became fabled for his work as a speed bump whenever called upon to defend, but it could be one hell of a draw for the sport of boxing.

Cooper could turn some new fans on to the sport. I know one Kiwi named Richie, for example, who is planning to take six months out from rugby and would be very happy to see an event where Cooper’s face is a target…

This may just be a cry for attention, but let’s give QC the benefit of the doubt. He could have fists like grenades, a jaw like granite and footwork as sweet as grenadine.

Cooper, who has won 38 caps for Australia as well as a Super Rugby title with the Reds, is not the first international rugby player to switch sports. Here are five others who have made the switch:

Sonny Bill WilliamsSonny Bill Williams

Quade’s mate was a convert to union in the first place and he has a pretty blasé attitude to changing sports. We all remember him saying this: “A bus driver: if they’re on $40,000 and they get offered a lot more to go somewhere else, what do you think they’re going to do. Are they going to change bus companies? Or are they going to sit there and say, ‘All these people want me to stay here because I’m the best bus driver in the jurisdiction?’”

So he has, for lack of a better turn of phrase, driven buses into league, union, boxing, and will eventually drive back into league, as he is joining the Sydney Roosters.

Gareth ThomasGareth Thomas

Alfie can be called a full-on rugby legend. He has captained Wales with such passion that he has hospitalized himself. He has led the Lions. He is so loved around the world that stories of a biopic on his life circulate Hollywood.

So people tend to forget that his sporting career ended at the Celtic Crusaders rugby league team. He was only there for one season before he packed it in completely, but the Big Brother bowed out at the top.

Eric MillerEric Miller

The No 8 played for Leicester Tigers, Leinster and Ulster. He played for Ireland. He played for the Lions in South Africa. It is fair to say that Miller had a dream run in the late 1990s.

He retired with Leinster in 2006 after a consistent and surprisingly understated professional career, but he was not done with sport. After the dizzy heights of World Cups and a Lions tour he returned to his first love, Gaelic football, making his All Ireland debut for Dublin.

Mike PykeMike Pyke

The rangy winger/full-back amassed 22 caps in an international career with Canada, as well as enjoying spells with Edinburgh Rugby and Montauban. He even scored a lung-bursting try against New Zealand in 2007.

In 2009, though, the British Columbia native changed tact completely. Injury saw him take a gamble and try to make it in Aussie Rules. Hard work and a highlight DVD saw him try out for the Sydney Swans and he was fully contracted to the outfit in 2008.

In September 2012 he came on in the Grand Final and put in a career-defining performance, mopping up possession well and handling rucks with ferocity. He was a significant figure in a landmark victory.

Hayden SmithHayden Smith

The Australia-born lock has made a habit of coming out of left field. He first started playing the game in the US in 2008, crashing around for the Denver Barbarians.

In that same year he signed for Saracens and played for the USA Eagles, having qualified on residency grounds.  He never looked back after that game against Uruguay and featured regularly for the side, playing all the group matches for the Eagles at the 2011 World Cup.

This was not enough for Smith. He wanted another challenge that he could topple in next to no time. So he switched to NFL. He has made the roster at the New York Jets and is seen as a long-term project. He may not be crushing skulls on the gridiron just yet, but he has the power and athleticism to hit someone very, very hard with an egg-shaped ball in his hands.