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NFL look to harvest rugby talent through international combines

The success of Jarryd Hayne has the league considering other talent.

Australian Jarryd Hayne in action.
Australian Jarryd Hayne in action.
Image: Jack Dempsey/AP/Press Association Images

THE SUCCESS OF former Australian rugby league player Jarryd Hayne this preseason could see the NFL intensifying their efforts to recruit more players from abroad, including Ireland.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, NFL vice president Mark Waller said the league as a whole needs to improve its scouting efforts abroad and admitted it needs more clearly defined paths into the sport.

“We’ve not really done a good job,” he said.

“It’s odd because we have a very good system in the US – the combine. That mechanic is a great way for providing a very clear focal point. It lays out very clearly what the skill requirements are, and in recent years we’ve extended the combine from a single event to a series of regional events that lead into the Combine itself.

“It would seem logical to start with ‘well I wonder if there’s an extension of the combine that we ought to look at’ that could look at bringing in athletes from elsewhere or holding a combines in some other markets. Should we extend that thinking maybe we need a global infrastructure and maybe we test it initially in a couple of markets?”

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Source: NFL/YouTube

With scouting such a hit and miss process when dealing with players who’ve grown up with American football their entire lives, it’s understandable why the NFL has been reluctant up to now to look further afield.

However, Hayne as well as Star Lotulelei (Tonga), Ziggy Ansah (Ghana), Sebastian Vollmer (Germany) and others show that investment abroad can produce dividends, especially as those players sought out the NFL and not the other way around.

Should Hayne make the 49ers final 53-man roster — and it looks likely he will — it serves as further prove that skills honed in other sports, particularly rugby, can be used to your advantage in the NFL.

A one of the top five rugby playing nations in the world, it’s logical to think that Ireland would be at the on the radar of many NFL scouts.

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Steve O'Rourke

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