Dallas Jackals field the tallest winger in rugby
When it comes to playing as a back in rugby union, height isn’t necessarily a criteria that plays too large a role in selection pressure.
Of course, there’s been some tall specimens down through the years that have stood out. Retired England back Matt Banahan springs to mind at 6’7, while Mike Pyke at 6’7 and Justin Mensah-Coker at 6’5 once formed a towering combination on either wing for Canada in the noughties. Malaysia fielded the 6’5 Dineshwaran Krishnan – dubbed ‘Malaysian Lomu’ – on the wing but he has since moved to the second row.
For the most part, the trade-off between size and ability to accelerate and change direction at pace tends to limit the height of backs, but it’s a trend that’s increasingly being challenged.
The Dallas Jackals in the MLR have certainly challenged positional stereotypes by fielding a 6’9, 112kg Shawn Clark on the wing. This makes Clark the tallest winger in professional rugby.
Clark has had an interesting path into the game. A crossover athlete, the Postdam, New York native played American football, basketball and baseball growing up. He played college football at Monmouth University as a tightened for four years and would go on to try out for Indiana Colts in the NFL.
In early 2021 Clark was scouted by the Glendale-based Colorado XO side [AKA American Raptors], a team made up of crossover athletes from the likes of American football, wrestling, basketball and ice hockey. The Raptors’ goal is to convert and then supply American rugby with top-level athletes from their base at the RugbyTown National Training Center.
Clark was then picked up by the LA Giltinis in 2021, but didn’t feature for them in the regular season last year but did enough while there to earn a contract with the Dallas Jackals.
Dallas originally signed him from the Giltini’s as a lock and he has appeared for the Texas-based franchise as a back row. However, last weekend Dallas turned heads when they fielded the 26-year-old as an outsized winger against the Gilronis.
In MLR they have 6'9 wingers – is that a record?!
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 19, 2022
With a 4.77 40-yard dash, he moves pretty well for a big man and is apparently fast enough to be invited to the USA Sevens camp.
Whether Clark stays on the wing remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a fun experiment to watch play out.
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