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Which is tougher, rugby or American football? A few professional athletes have played both – this is what they said:

“When I heard it was only 20-minute games, I was like, ‘Man, I would kill that. I’ve played two-hour games in college and the NFL.’ The first game I ever played in rugby, after two minutes, I was begging the coach to take me out.
–Leonard Peters, current USA Rugby Sevens player and former safety for the New York Jets and the Chicago Bears

“They all say overseas that whenever we take [rugby] seriously, we’ll beat everyone, and it’s true. If I could get some All-Pros and train them in rugby, we’d go out and kick ass.”
–Dan Lyle, who in 1996 turned down the Minnesota Vikings to play for Bath Rugby Club in England

“It became quite difficult and I didn’t seem to get better. That was to do with lack of involvement in the game.”
–Gavin Hastings, former Scotland rugby captain, on joining NFL Europe’s Scottish Claymores as a kicker in 1996

“The most difficult adjustment in the sport was learning positional play — knowing where to be at the right time and the most advantageous position to receive the ball.”
–Manfred Moore, Oakland Raiders running back who in 1977 left the NFL to play rugby league with Australia’s Newtown Jets

“I think the more violent game is American football, and the more physically challenging is rugby. The advantage in American football is that you get seven months to prepare for a four-month season. In rugby, it seems like you get two weeks to prepare for an 11-month season.”
–Richard Tardits, who played rugby with France’s national youth team before moving to the US and picking up football. Tardits would go on to play linebacker for the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals before returning to rugby as a member of the US national team.

Community Connection

Join the debate at American Football vs. Rugby: Which is Tougher?, or learn more about rugby with our photo essay on the Anatomy of a Rugby Match.

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