x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Rugby door in US swings from entrance to exit

After years of having players leaving the NFL for a try at rugby, the New York Jets will give Hayden Smith a try at tight end, reversing the trend.

Hayden Smith will be giving up rugby for the US national team and put on shoulder pads and a helmet in his tryout with the New York Jets as a tight end.
Hayden Smith will be giving up rugby for the US national team and put on shoulder pads and a helmet in his tryout with the New York Jets as a tight end.

 

For some years, rugby union bosses in the United States have been happy to pick up players who have slipped through the cracks of the American football system.

It might be a blow to their recruitment drive if players start going the other way, however.

One player hardly represents a trend, but Hayden Smith's decision to ditch his professional rugby career with Saracens, the English Premiership champions, in favour of a move to the NFL this week is still notable.

The Australia-born lock, who formerly played college basketball, has effectively ended his 18-cap USA rugby career aged just 26 by signing a three-year term with the New York Jets.

"Playing in the NFL has been something I've always wanted to do. It's been a dream of mine," Smith said. "After the Rugby World Cup it became clear that this dream might become a reality."

He has plenty of miles to travel before he makes their starting roster, but he is not treading a path totally untravelled.

Gavin Hastings had a go kicking for the Scottish Claymores at the end of his rugby career in the lower profile World League, but to minimal effect.

Terry Price played union for Wales and the British & Irish Lions, league for Great Britain, and in the NFL as a kicker for Buffalo Bills.

Having been pencilled in for a role as a tight end, Smith's involvement is likely to be slightly more energetic than most previous converts.

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