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Vikings, rugby players debate which sport has tougher players

October 29,2017 04:29

LONDON — Some rugby players stopped by Friday to watch the Vikings practice. It didn't take them long to evaluate the differences between the two sports. “They smash each other with their helmets and stuff,” said William Floyd, who plays second row ...


LONDON — Some rugby players stopped by Friday to watch the Vikings practice. It didn’t take them long to evaluate the differences between the two sports.
“They smash each other with their helmets and stuff,” said William Floyd, who plays second row for the London Irish rugby club. “We just sort of smash each other with our bones.”
In preparation for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns at Twickenham Stadium, the Vikings practiced on the pitch at The Hazelton Centre, the training ground for the London Irish. The rugby players worked out earlier in the morning, and some then stuck around for a close look at American Football.
Sebatian De Chaves, who plays second row, was asked which sport has the tougher players.
“It’s 100 percent (us),” De Chaves said. “We’re just crazy guys going at it with no pads or nothing, no rules. We just go at it and try to kill each other.”
Vikings who don’t know much about rugby are getting an introduction on their trip to London. On the walls at The Hazelton Centre are rugby uniforms and a list of great players in the club’s history. On Sunday, the Vikings will play in a rugby stadium. Twickenham is owned by England’s Rugby Football Union, and top matches in the country are held there.

London Irish rugby players William Floyd, left, and Sebastian De Chaves talk about American football during an interview at The Hazelwood Centre, the training ground for the team, on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017. The Minnesota Vikings practiced there Friday in preparation for an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in London on Sunday. (Chris Tomasson / Pioneer Press)Minnesota defensive end Brian Robison has been battling in the trenches of the NFL for 11 years. He knows enough about rugby to say he prefers the sport with pads.
“They’re a lot tougher than we are,” he said. “We play with pads, but when I wake up on Monday mornings, I feel like I’ve been hit by baseball bats. … I can only imagine how those guys feel.”
Vikings wide receiver Jarius Wright wasn’t ready to concede anything to rugby players.
“We’re the tougher guys,” he said. “We take a hit from a safety coming at you downhill. Those guys are close to each other when they hit each other.”
Floyd, 27, and De Chaves, 26, have learned a bit about American football in recent years. When the London Irish played a game in New York, the club practiced at the Jets’ facility. The two attended a game at Twickenham last year between the New York Giants and the Los Angeles Rams, and earlier this season they watched the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals practice at their training ground.
Floyd and De Chaves wonder if, given the opportunity, they could teach NFL players something.

“We’ll take them on fitness runs,” Floyd said. “Their plays aren’t that long. … The hardest part (of rugby) is fatigue. You have two halves of 40 minutes and there’s no stopping for 40 minutes. Obviously, the collisions are probably not as hard just because everybody is gassed; you’re just trying to stand up.”
While De Chaves said rugby players might be able to outlast those in the NFL with their stamina, he did offer one concession. “They’ve got some big boys,” he said. “In the gym, they’d be quite impressive. It’s different athletes for different sports.”
Floyd is 6-foot-9, 253 pounds and is De Chaves 6-7, 266 pounds. The Vikings have 11 players on the 53-man roster weighing 300 or more.
Overall, Floyd and De Chaves were pleased to have the Vikings as guests at their training center. And the football players were happy to be there.
“It was a cool experience,” linebacker Ben Gedeon said. “My brother Sam played rugby at the Naval Academy, and I’ll definitely tell him about it.”
The Vikings practiced on a far field with NFL goalposts and yard lines, so they didn’t get the full feel of a rugby pitch. But kicker Kai Forbath did while on another field to boot footballs through the rugby posts.
Forbath said he made all his kicks even if the rugby posts, at 18 feet, 2 inches, are four inches narrower than the NFL’s. He was happy to be kicking instead of playing.
“I had some buddies in college (at UCLA) who played rugby and they’re tough guys,” Forbath said. “I used to go watch them. I wouldn’t want to do that.”

Chris joined the Pioneer Press in 2013 to cover the Vikings. He was a longtime NBA writer with the Akron Beacon Journal, Rocky Mountain News and AOL FanHouse. Before coming to Minnesota, he covered the Miami Heat and Dolphins for Fox Sports. Chris has won six awards in the past three Pro Football Writers of America contests. Chris is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he spent his college years watching the losingest team in the history of Division I-A football.

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