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The remarkable links between rugby and World's Strongest Man competition

By Ian Cameron
erry Hollands of United Kingdom competes at the Deadlift (Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images)

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The world of strength athletes has reached a milestone this year, with the sport’s centrepiece competition – World’s Strongest Man (WSM) – entering its 40th year.

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It’s a sport populated by true giants, with many WSM athletes making even rugby’s largest players look relatively human by comparison. Top WSM competitors weigh upwards of 150kg, with this year’s heaviest athletes weighing close to 200kg or 32 stone in old money.

Yet rugby can boast a remarkable lineage in the competition, with many of it’s best-known athletes having cut their teeth in the fifteen man game.

Of World Strongest Man’s thirty 2017 competitors, five are former rugby players.

Britain’s Terry Hollands played rugby at Harlequins at U21 and was a ‘regular feature’ in the team in the late 90s. The now 6’6, 170kg Hollands (slimmed down from 194kg) was already getting too heavy to lift in his rugby days as a second row. He is still an avid rugby fan and competed in a Rugby Aid match alongside Brad Thorn in 2015.

In fact Harlequins have a rich vein of form in strength athletes. Their current S&C coach Adam Bishop missed out on this year’s final but has competes in the UK Strong Man circuit. The 6’3, 130kg Bishop was a winger in his rugby days and goes by the moniker – The Titan of Twickenham.

6’2, 158kg Laurence ‘Big Loz’ Shahleai was a tighthead prop for Gloucester Rugby team playing in the English Rugby Union and has won Britain’s Strongest Man on multiple occasions.

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One of the outsiders for this year’s tournament is “The Georgian Bull” Konstantine Janashia who played rugby before he took up a career in strength athletics. He is still a keen rugby fan and the 6’5, 155kg giant boasts some of the largest trapezius muscles on the planet.

Also in this year’s final is man mountain New Zealander Colm Woulfe (6’5, 180kg) who played rugby as a teenager and South Africa’s Johan Els. The 6’5, 148kg Els played as a secondrow.

Indeed the record breaking five-time WSM winner – Mariusz Pudzianowski – played rugby in Poland and was even rumoured to have signed for Welsh side Amman.

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While hot favourite Eddie ‘The Beast’ Hall did not play rugby, his brother James Hall played prop for Bristol and holds a world record in the Ski Erg.

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The remarkable links between rugby and World's Strongest Man competition

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