Commonwealth Games: Rugby's all-rounders

(IRB.COM) Wednesday 23 July 2014
 Commonwealth Games: Rugby's all-rounders
Non Evans - the ultimate 'sports-junkie'

With its speed, strength and agility, Rugby Sevens is a natural bedfellow with other multi-disciplined Commonwealth Games sports. Who's to say South Africa Sevens standby player and Springbok speedster, Bryan Habana would not look out of place in the sprint events? He did once race a cheetah after all!

While the ability to run fast, a quality found in any self-respecting Sevens player, obviously lends itself well to track events, the combative nature of rugby and the physical strength required to play the sport also means crossover athletes can be found in the field, gym or the boxing ring.  

On the eve of the Commonwealth Games Sevens competition, we highlight a selection of rugby players, drawn from the participating countries, who have enjoyed success in the past, or continue to do so, on more than one sporting front.

George Smith – New Zealand (sprint/hurdles). Smith returned to rugby from athletics in time to play a prominent role on the ‘Originals’ tour of 1905. Held the unofficial world record for the 440 yard hurdles with a time of 58.5 seconds as well as numerous national sprint titles.

Eric Liddell – Scotland (400 metres). As well as being an evangelist, the flying winger was a man on a mission in the sporting world. A gold medal winner at the 1924 Olympics in Paris and inspiration for the film ‘Chariots of Fire’, Liddell also won seven caps for Scotland.

C B Holmes – England (sprint). The Lancastrian achieved the sprint double at the 1938 Commonwealth Games as well as winning three Post-War caps for England.

Ken Jones – Wales (sprint relay). Arguably Wales’ greatest-ever male sporting all-rounder for his prowess on the rugby field and athletics. A British Lion, Jones played in 44 consecutive Test matches for Wales between 1947-1957, helping his country to two Grand Slams and the historic 1953 victory over New Zealand. Jones was also a member of the Great Britain sprint relay team that won silver at the 1948 Olympics. 

Nigel Walker – Wales (sprint hurdles). Walker first achieved world class recognition as an athlete when he represented Great Britain as a high hurdler on 30 occasions at all major events, including the World Championships and the Olympic Games. He retired from athletics in 1992 to pursue a career in rugby. In his first season at Cardiff, he was capped for Wales at full international level and went on to accrue 17 full international caps.

Non Evans - Wales (Judo, Weightlifting, Wrestling). With an MBE, 87 rugby caps and a long list of medals for judo, weightlifting and freestyle wrestling, it’s fair to say the ultra-competitive Evans is one of the most prolific sportswomen Wales has ever produced.

Sonny Bill Williams – New Zealand (Boxing). The sports crossover king having flitted back and forth between Rugby Union and Rugby League, with some heavyweight bouts of top level professional boxing thrown in for good measure.

Tom Court – Australia/Ireland (Shot Putt). The Aussie-born, Ireland international prop was three-time University champion at shot putt Down Under and was a 2002 Olympic triallist for his mother country.