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The Super Bowl pairing is set, as the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks both punched their tickets to Glendale, Ariz. Sunday. Both have strong rugby ties.
Seattle’s adoption of rugby tackling techniques has garnered quite a bit of media attention, spurred on by a video created by the club. Head coach Pete Carroll narrated the clip, and speaks highly of the safer techniques used in rugby.
“We teach this system of tackling was recently inspired by those who play rugby around the world,” he said. “Rugby players have taken the head out of the game and truly exemplified shoulder tackling. You’ll see several clips of rugby tackling throughout the film.”
Waisale Serevi, widely considered the greatest sevens player ever, now lives in Seattle, where he operates the far-reaching Serevi Rugby company. He has visited the Seahawks to talk tackling on multiple occasions.
The Seahawks roster also includes rugby connections. Tight end Tony Moeaki is the son of Sione Moeaki, who played rugby at BYU. And converted fullback Will Tukuafu is a former rugby player from Salt Lake City, Utah. He came into the league as a defensive lineman, but has since moved to the offensive side of the ball, and his rugby background has gotten some credit for the success.
“The 6-foot-4, 293-pound former rugby player is fast for his size and incredibly strong, and has a nose for defenders,” one article said of Tukuafu.
On the other side of the ball will be Nate Ebner – a former age-grade player for the United States. He didn’t play organized football until college, moving from the rugby pitch at Ohio State to the Buckeyes’ gridiron team as a walk-on. He eventually earned a scholarship and was drafted by the Patriots, despite playing special teams almost exclusively at Ohio State.
“His development has really been outstanding,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick told the Boston Globe about Ebner, which ran a story detailing his growing role as a defensive contributor. “I would probably put him in the, not the all-time top, but maybe in the top 5 percent all time of players that I’ve coached, from where they were in college to how they grew in the NFL.”
The world stands still for the Super Bowl every year, but this year, rugby fans will have a few more reasons to pay close attention to the stuff between commercials.