Rugby vs NFL


So, cracking weekend of sport my way. 6N is always a special time up these ways, and I felt the empty stadiums weren’t too much of a blight which was nice. Having to watch it at home without company was a bit crap, but such is life. Anyway, I watched around 180 of 240 minutes of the 6N then most of the Super Bowl and I couldn’t help but notice the very stark changes since I last watched NFL. Which was probably 10 years ago.

I know there are vast differences in the games and thus comparisons are sort of apples/oranges but the core foundation of each game is very similar - size, speed and skill. At least it used to be anyway. So read on if your interested in thoughts, sod off if you ain’t …

The main contrast is just how much NFL has changed for the better, whilst rugby has changed for the worse. Thats quite the opener there, but it’s simply true. I’ll go through my views.


Size
It honestly looks like rugby players have spent years just trying to get bigger at the expense of everything else, whilst NFL players don’t (to my eyes anyway) look much bigger than say 20 years ago. I found a comparison site and it shows the average is around 10-15 pounds heavier now than 20 years ago. However the fact you don’t notice that is very telling. It means these guys are putting it on where it’s needed. The players are noticeably leaner than most of their rugby counterparts, and subsequently quicker.

Player Speed
After watching the 6N forwards slowly batter into each other time and time again, it was so refreshing to see the NFL guys really really hit the line at speed. It made for spectacular viewing when they punched through it, and also when they defended it. The KC shutout on their own line was absolutely compelling, thrilling, viewing. When did you last say the same about forwards going one-off continuously when pushing for a try and the defence holding?

Game Speed
NFL gets rightly criticised for how long it takes, the time outs etc. But when the action is on, it’s proper proper on. Ask yourself this … would you rather 2-3 mins of no play at all whilst players move / things setup, or 2-3 mins of scrum resets etc? They are comparable now, thats just fact. At least with NFL, you know nothings happens so you can take a piss / grab a beer etc.

Penalties
It may have just been this game, but NFL seems to have retreated to being a game based a lot on penalties. KC got smashed on penalties last night big time and was part of the reason they got rolled. Lots of silly blocks / grabs etc. Some frustration yes, but I imagine as a KC Fan it would make frustrating viewing watching a game changing play (interception / defensive play) be overturned for a pointless penalty. It feels a bit football VAR like… and nobody will tell you thats a good thing. A positive though is that the superstars of NFL are NOT the kickers. It actually felt like the commentators were reading the briefing notes when talking about them! Literally zero knowledge on the players!

Excitement
I know it was the 6N but the excitement wasn’t even comparable. I think Mahomes himself ran further forwards then pretty much so all the backs in the England/Scotland & Wales/Ireland games put together. I really think rugby’s appeal to audiences is slipping into being either for purists / or players. X-factor players are few and far between now, as players are more formulaic. Which is kind of strange, given that NFL is formulaic, yet if you watched the games side by side, you’d come to the opposite conclusion

Safety
I don’t know what the answer is here. Nobody wants to see rugby players in helmets, pads etc, but who wants to see Peter O’Mahony ballsing up hitting a ruck and being sent off for it? I like O’Mahony as a a player - he’s incredibly abrasive & empties the tank every game. He’s not dirty. But it had to be a red. The thing is though, if you look at the way the players are hitting the rucks now, it is very very NFL like. But without any protection. What do you think is going to happen every now and again?


So all in all, you could perhaps read the above and think I’ve changed code for sport watching. And you’d be wrong. I still enjoy rugby and will always watch the AB’s play and any NZ super team I can. But it’s just gotten the last 10 years completely wrong. Where as NFL seems to have really improved by refining itself, rugby seems to have gone the opposite way by putting size above pretty much so everything. It doesn’t make for a better game, far from it.

One final point. There is only one current player who I can think of that I thought perhaps looked like an NFL player. Akira Ioane. Perhaps something in that. Not sure what though.

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