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Peters does rugby: Changing lanes

The transition from American Football to rugby hasn't been an easy sprint for former Chicago Bears player Peters

  • Leonard PetersImage Credit: Pankaj Sharma, XPRESS
  • War cry: The victorious New Zealand team perform the Haka after winning the Dubai Rugby Sevens. They beat SamoImage Credit: Pankaj Sharma, XPRESS
XPRESS

Dubai : The Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens proved to be a surreal experience for Leonard Peters, the USA player who five months ago had never even watched a rugby game on TV.

American Football was what kept the 27-year-old busy and the only connection he shared with rugby was through his Samoan father.

Fast forward to December, Peters returns to America with "very good memories" from his debut international rugby outing.

Speaking to XPRESS, he said: "I had no expectations of playing at all coming into it. But I got to play all the games, I scored my first try, so I'm just enjoying every­thing about rugby right now."

Peters' love affair with rugby began soon after his zing for American Football started to evaporate upon being released by NFL side Chicago Bears last year.

He said: "When I was done playing American Football, coach [Al Caravelli] called me and asked if I wanted to play rugby. He told me there's a lot of running and hitting so I said, "OK, sign me up".

Describing the transition as "very difficult", the American Samoa-born Peters said: "Besides the fact that in rugby you can pass only backwards. I think the hardest thing is the fitness. In NFL, you run for nine seconds, then you rest 30 seconds. In rugby, you run for seven minutes straight. And if you get tired in American Football, you can come out and go back in later whereas in rugby you can't."

But Peters said he hardly misses donning the pads and helmet and would like to be an ambassador for rugby to American Football players currently out of work.

"Hopefully it sparks an interest in America to make rugby popular because I think it will be better for the whole world. There are a lot of football players who aren't playing now so instead of getting a regular job, they can come play rugby and try it out," he said before revealing his appreciation of the fanatical Dubai crowd.

"There's a lot more people in terms of a crowd in the NFL where the other team's fans will tease and heckle you. But they're not as crazy as the people here, in a good way. Here everyone's cheering for you whatever team you play for. Everyone's having fun, it's like a big party outside like Halloween. I'd love to be back. I've taken a lot of pictures which I'll take home to share with everybody in America," he said.

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