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Dallas Jackals field the tallest winger in rugby

By Ian Cameron
Gelen Robinson, Shawn Clark, and Ma'ake Muti #18 of the LA Giltinis pose for a photo after the game against the Houston SaberCats at Los Angeles Coliseum on June 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images for LA Giltinis)

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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.

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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.

Closer to home, England and Leicester Tigers’ current fullback Freddie Steward is another outlier at 6’5.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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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