ESPN writer Kevin Van Valkenburg has recently claimed that NFL athletes would dominate rugby
ESPN Writer Claims “USA Would Dominate Rugby If NFL Stars Played”
Right now, the All Blacks are the best rugby union side in the world, but ESPN writer Kevin Van Valkenburg has claimed that with enough training, NFL stars like JJ Watt, Leonard Fournette and Zeke Elliott would help the USA dominate rugby.
The majority of replies called his claims arrogant and clueless such as the one below:
The comments made such a stir that even politician Senator Neale Thomas from Dublin commented with: “Ah here, I love NFL but that’s a ridiculously ignorant comment. Watch a full 80mins of top class rugby with guys who’ve been playing since they were kids and comment rather than a bit of a US college game with guys who may only have played for a year or two.”
Despite many replies, the American did not back down from his assertion:
Now no one is doubting the athleticism of many of the NFL stars but it appears as if Valkenburg thinks that rugby is all about having athletes and big players. But there is more to the game than that. Sure, there are more athletic and stronger players than Richie McCaw, but you will be hard pressed to find a smarter one.
Valkenburg has fallen into the trap of assuming that picking up a new sport is easy. Additionally, he forgets that rugby players have to play on offence and defence, without pads and for 80 minutes. Whereas in the NFL, they only play on one side of the ball, and get regular breaks.
There is no denying the linkage between the two sports. Both are incredibly explosive, and all the players involved are athletes. As a result, there have been players who have tried to ply their trade in each.
Former Worcester lock Christian Scotland-Williamson has been signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers and will join their practice squad as part of the International Player Pathway programme. Alex Gray, who represented England Sevens, is also part of the programme and is currently with the Atlanta Falcons.
Finally, Psalm Wooching played American Football at college in Washington and was destined for the NFL draft, but he decided to focus on rugby instead. A year later, he was making his international debut with the USA. We covered Wooching in our latest issue of Rugby World, and you can click the link below to see what else is in the issue.
But the amount of players who have tried to switch is minimal, and all will admit how difficult it is to take up a new sport at such a high level.
Van Valkenburg has no doubt felt the wrath of rugby fans on his social media, which may deter him from making such bold statements in the future… or encourage him.