When the media and general public discuss dangerous collisions in prep sports, they tend to focus on football. There’s good reason for that: Players start from a dead stop and accelerate until they make impact, setting the stage for blazing fast and dangerous impact. Still, this myopic focus on football obscures other dangerous sports like lacrosse, where players tend to accelerate while already in motion before colliding with opponents and teammates.
Imagine those lacrosse hits without pads, and one gets a sense of just how brutal prep rugby can be, especially when it’s played in the Southern Hemisphere, where rugby is local football, in a literal sense.
Watch enough rugby and it becomes clear that it, and not American football, provides the most brutal hits to young athletes. Case in point: The video you see above, which was captured in New Zealand.
As noted by a number of different global outlets and brought to Prep Rally’s attention by the soccer blog 101 Great Goals, the massive blind side hit featured in this particular clip was delivered by Ruslan Casey, a high school athlete at Wanganui (N.Z.) Collegiate School on Hamilton (N.Z.) St. Paul’s Collegiate School ‘s Kip Fawcett. The force delivered by Casey is absolutely astounding, making it a minor miracle that Fawcett could even collect himself and get up off the turf after being drilled into it.
Hits like this don’t come every day in rugby, but they do come more often than one might think. Before anyone criticizes Casey, it’s worth noting that his hit was completely legal, as he took off toward Fawcett from yards away while Fawcett was heading toward the touch line (think goal line). It’s not Casey’s fault that Fawcett turned to deliver a pass just as he arrived on the scene with force.
Obviously, such a blind side hit would draw a penalty in American football, not to mention scorn for the player who delivered it. That’s not the case in rugby. Why not? Some of that reason is surely due to cultural differences, both within the sports themselves and society as a whole.
At the same time, rugby does do things to discourage dangerous play that football could take a lesson from. As noted by one Prep Rally reader, a dangerous play doesn't just get a 15-yard penalty; it lands 10 minutes in the sin bin at the least, and often elicits an immediate removal from the game and two-match suspension. Because all tackles must be made by wrapping one's arms around the opponent, there's none of the flying spearing that goes on in football, and that's a very good thing.
Some of the varied levels of concern probably has to be due to the nature of the sports themselves. Rugby players are big, but not as big as many of the athletes who set up on the line in American football. And while hits like Casey’s do happen, play isn’t set up to deliver them the way that American football lines up a wide receiver on a crossing pattern in the crosshairs of a free safety.
Regardless of the reason, one thing is certain: Those rugby kids sure pack a punch. Just ask Fawcett down on the North Island of New Zealand.
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