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Fitness & Health

16th Jul 2019

Rugby versus NFL: two top players take on a series of fitness challenges

Both sports combine strength and stamina, but who comes out on top in rugby versus NFL? We put Wales' Jamie Roberts up against Samson Ebukam of the LA Rams

Alex Roberts

Rugby versus NFL

Both sports combine strength and stamina, but who comes out on top in a series of fitness challenges?

In rugby versus NFL, we put Bath and Wales centre Jamie Roberts up against LA Rams linebacker Samson Ebukam.

The four-part fitness challenge consisted of:

  • Pull-Ups (as many reps as possible)
  • Press-Ups (as many reps as possible)
  • Weighted Plank (hold as long as possible)
  • Rowing (furthest distance in 30 seconds)

The challenges call on all aspects of physical performance, from pressing strength to core stability and muscular endurance.

Rugby versus NFL

After the rugby versus NFL fitness challenge was complete, both Roberts and Ebukam took time to discuss the similarities and differences in both sports.

Roberts said: “Rugby is a bit different to NFL. It’s more continuous, so the training we do is pretty anaerobic, kind of being able to repeat power and speed.”

Referring to NFL, the Lions-capped Welsh centre added, “Your game is quite stop-start, whereas we’re very much a phase of play can last anything from 5-6 seconds, to 2 minutes.”

Despite the differences, Rams linebacker Ebukam pointed out that NFL is borrowing elements of rugby – particularly in its approach to tackling.

“We’re actually starting to steal you guys’ tackling forms.

“We’re definitely stealing from you guys because it just saves our heads just using the shoulder leverage a lot more.”

On the issue of concussion, qualified doctor Roberts wondered whether it was as pressing a matter in the NFL as it is in rugby.

Ebukam said, “Definitely, yeah – we got all the new helmets that all form to your head and stuff like that so, it’s definitely taking multiple steps to the right direction.”

Attentions also turned to the worst conditions they’ve played in. Ebukam said the diverse climate of the United States means you play in all extremes.

“Not even in the NFL, before I was in college, it was our home game up in Eastern Washington, Spokane. So I guess really, really cold up there, but it was like -7 degrees but with the windshield felt like 13.

“It was so bad the field was ice.”

For Roberts, the worst conditions came on tour with the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand.

“We were training outside Wellington, and as backs we were stood there.

“It was horizontal rain, it was zero degrees, right in our faces. As the ball’s gone in the scrum, as backs we would face the other way, ready for the ball to come out and then we’d go and attack.”

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