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Christian Wade and the Rugby Union Players Who Have Switched Sports

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For many rugby union fans, nothing beats the thrill and excitement that the game has to offer. In fact, many supporters must be left baffled by the idea that anyone would ever want to move away from the sport.

However, occasionally that does indeed happen, with players identifying opportunities to try their hand in another discipline and sample life in a different arena. Former Wasps player and England international Christian Wade is one of the latest to take this step, although he has arguably opted for a more unexpected route when compared to many others.

An entry into NFL

Wade recently described himself as “lost for words” after it was confirmed that he was making the move into the NFL and signing with the Buffalo Bills. Set to be placed in a practice squad, he is expected to have a chance to make a mark at a training camp in the very near future.

The switch came about after the 27-year-old – who is the third-highest try scorer in Premiership history – left Wasps towards the end of last year to join an International Pathway Program for American football players outside of the US.

While it might sound remarkable to hear that a rugby player is making the move into the NFL, Wade is in fact far from the first to try his hand in the hugely popular league and American football in general. Christian Scotland-Williamson made the move into the area just last year, while former England Rugby sevens player Alex Gray now plays for the Atlanta Falcons. Even rugby union legend Gavin Hastings had a short period sampling the sport as a member of the Scottish Claymores NFL Europe team.

Switching codes

But while heading across the Atlantic and joining the NFL may seem like a surprising move, there is, of course, a history of rugby union losing players to another sport much closer to home – rugby league.

Rugby union and rugby league, of course, split into two codes all the way back in 1895, and while they have journeyed down separate paths through the decades since, a host of players have made the decision to switch between them. The likes of Jason Robinson started in rugby league before moving into union and enjoying a glittering career, but the trend has tended to work both ways.

Photo: Getty Images

Rugby league odds provider bet365 reported in February how Northampton Saints star Luther Burrell is excited at the prospect of making the move to Super League side Warrington Wolves in the summer, with the move making him the latest in a long line of players to take the step. Other notable players who have switched from union to league include Sonny Bill Williams, who won the World Cup twice with the All Blacks before joining the Sydney Roosters in the NRL in 2013.

The future?

If comments from Shaun Edwards last summer are to be believed, Burrell may not be the last union player to switch codes in the coming months and years.

Rugby union remains hugely popular across the globe and while playing at the highest level remains a huge target for many young players, it will be fascinating to see if some follow the lead of Christian Wade and others to consider a career beyond the sport.

This article was brought to you by The Rugby Paper, the UK's best-selling rugby publication, on-sale every Sunday.
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