It’s one of the coincidences of the international sporting calendar that the Six Nations starts at around the same time that the NFL season finishes. This year, for example, the Italy v France clash which opened the Six Nations came just the day before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took on the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Is there some deeper cosmic significance here? Well, probably not, but it does provide a good excuse to ponder a tantalising question: which of our current Six Nations stars could we imagine donning helmets and shoulder pads as American football players?
It’s been done before. Take Scottish rugby legend Gavin Hastings, who was one of the finest players of his generation and amassed 20 caps as Scotland captain. Back in 1996, he joined the Scottish Claymores, which competed in the World League of American Football (later renamed NFL Europe). The move raised some eyebrows, with an article in The Independent noting how it was “disconcerting” to see “Gavin Hastings, Scotland’s erstwhile rugby captain, toting a helmet”. Hastings would play for the Claymores at the prestigious World Bowl, which took place in Edinburgh and saw the Scottish team beat Frankfurt Galaxy in front of tens of thousands of American football fans.
Another example is Hayden Smith, the Australian-American rugby player most familiar to Brits for his time with the Saracens. As well as distinguishing himself by being part of the Saracens side that took the Premiership title in 2011, Smith made his reputation on the international stage by starting all of the United States matches at that year’s Rugby World Cup. By this point he’d already received interest from NFL teams, and – as he told BBC Sport – he “sat down with an NFL agent, went through my ambition with him and we worked up a plan.” That bore fruit, with Smith signed by the New York Jets in 2012. Interestingly, this ended up being a blip rather than a wholesale career change, with Smith returning to rugby the very next year.
Then there’s the case of Christian Wade, the former Wasps wing who was voted both Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year at the 2013 RPA awards. But it was all change for Wade in 2019 when he made his debut for the Buffalo Bills. That game saw Wade score a spectacular 65-yard touchdown – quite a way to commence his NFL career. Even the team’s quarterback was impressed, saying “Watching him score that touchdown was one of the coolest experiences of my football career.”
Now, back to this year’s Six Nations, and the question of who could comfortably make the leap from the rough and ready world of rugby to the glitzy, money-drenched realm of the NFL. Here are five contenders we’ve put together with a little help from https://www.topratedcasinos.ie.
This one’s a no-brainer. Antoine Dupont, who’s been called “the conductor at the heart of France’s rugby orchestra” and, less poetically, the “world’s best player”, would surely be able to transfer his superlative skills as a scrum half to become an NFL quarterback. The fact that All Blacks veteran Aaron Smith has said that Dupont’s performances are inspiring him to improve parts of his own game tells you everything about how gifted the Frenchman is.
Yes, there have been big question marks over Farrell’s form in this Six Nations, with the England captain barraged with criticism following his team’s shocking defeat at the hands of Scotland. But this shouldn’t cloud the fact that he’s a formidable talent who would particularly excel as an NFL placekicker. As team-mate Elliot Daly has reminded fans: “He’s one of the best players in the world… His performances when he’s on it speak for themselves.”
A previous winner of the BBC Cymru Sports Personality of the Year Award, Dan Biggar has quite the CV, rapidly closing in on 100 caps for Wales and winning a stash of silverware at both international and club levels. But never mind his potential prowess as a US quarterback – let’s not forget the man’s kicking routine spawned a viral dance craze dubbed the “Biggarena”. That’s surely all the proof you need that he’d fit into the Hollywood-style razzle-dazzle of the NFL, right?
Bath star Anthony Watson helped England bounce back after the Scotland debacle, scoring two tries in their 41-18 victory over Italy. Dodging defenders and making a key intercept, he once again proved what a skilled wing he is. He also set tongues wagging a few years ago when he openly said that transitioning to American football was “definitely something I’d be interested in”. Sure, he’s since said he’s fully committed to rugby, but still… you never know.
Tadhg Beirne hogged the limelight by scoring Ireland’s first try in this Six Nations, living up the expectations of his Munster coach Graham Rowntree who dubbed Beirne one of the best players he’s ever worked with. Let’s also remember that immense spiral kick he made during a European Champions Cup game last year. As one pundit put it on Twitter, “a second-row has absolutely no right to send a perfect spiral 60+ yards downfield off his left boot”. With this kind of versatility, he could certainly turn heads in the NFL.