What rugby union can learn from the NFL
Christian Wade believes the sport of rugby union is holding back its stars.
The NFL hopeful made this bold claim having made the transition to the glitz and the glamour of American football.
The former Wasps flyer made a major pre-season splash in 2019 for the Buffalo Bills, scoring a 65-yard touchdown with his first competitive touch of an American football.
However, things haven’t gone to plan since, with the pandemic and a poorly timed injury during the 2021 pre-season leaving his NFL career hanging by a thread.
A shoulder problem has meant the 30-year-old missed the entire Buffalo Bills’ pre-season, the only time Wade had a realistic chance of making a case for his talents.
Wade hasn’t played a single regular-season down and with his player pathway allowances soon coming to an end, the Bills may well look to onboard a new running back, likely to be at least seven years his junior and with considerably more playing experience.
Put simply, unless he finds a new franchise, Wade’s NFL career appears to be coming to an end. Yet his time hasn’t been wasted and he believes his former sport can learn from the American version of the game that it spawned.
Now he has hit out at the culture of rugby in an exclusive interview with The Sun.
“I love rugby and it’s been part of my journey but at the same time it’s very far away from elite sport in the grand scheme of things,” told The Sun.
“When I look back, I think, ‘There’s so much more stuff the rugby world can do to push this out there.’
“Rugby has a bigger platform than the NFL, it’s played around the world way more, but it’s almost been contained, a ‘keep rugby a secret’ type of thing.
“It’s time the rugby world opens itself up so it can grow and develop. That’s what it needs.
“Allow players to express themselves, otherwise you’re stopping people from reaching their full potential. That’s how I felt and wanting to look for more is part of the reason I left rugby.
“The NFL has opened up my eyes. There’s a lot that rugby can take from the NFL and bring that life back to it again.”
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Wade also thinks the game should revolve around getting England honours as much as it does.
“Rugby union as a whole shouldn’t be centred around England and, ‘You’re with England, now you can be yourself.’
“What about kids who come from school and have no way to express themselves as they’re worried about playing for England? I don’t understand what that’s about.
“You shouldn’t be made to feel a certain way as you’re driven toward England. If you don’t make it, what’s your why? I’ve seen that happen.
“I’ve seen guys I looked up to not be themselves. I was like, ‘What the hell happened?’ When you come through the system, you’re always thinking about playing for England.”
Wade now faces an anxious wait on his NFL future, be should he desire it, he could yet return to his 15-man code. With his partner based in America, such a return may be unlikely, unless he decides to try his hand in the MLR.
By Ian Cameron, Rugbypass