Loose Pass

Date published: September 2 2015

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This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with players heading to the NFL, Lomu's enduring legacy and the fastest men in rugby.

'Hayne Train' poised to blaze a trail to the NFL?

With former Australian rugby league star Jarryd Hayne tipped to earn a place on the San Francisco 49ers' roster for the forthcoming National Football League season, reports suggest that scouts will be keeping a close eye on next month's Rugby World Cup in the hope of spotting some other potential cross-over stars.

But are there any players who could make a successful transition from top-flight rugby union to the NFL? Plenty have tried, from Naas Botha, who had a trial with the Dallas Cowboys back in the day, to more recent players like Hayden Smith, who made the grade with the New York Jets briefly before returning to rugby union.

Hayne, who is not just an amazing talent but a Rugby League World Cup winner with the Kangaroos in 2013 and a two-time NRL Player of the Year, has impressed with his physicality and especially his footwork and ability to 'stiff arm' would-be tacklers but his agent Jack Bechta has pinpointed his client's mental strength as the key to his success in the States.

So while the likes of Israel Folau and Akira Ioane may appear to possess the skills, strength, vision and endurance to match their NFL rivals, do they have the mental fortitude to take the hits, learn the plays and make a success of such a move?

The real concern for rugby – both union and league – is that if Hayne is the hit many believe he will be then the NFL will come shopping for the sport's best players with budgets to make your eyes water.

That would be a particular blow to USA Rugby who have worked hard to attract those athletes who have failed to make their mark in American Football – and they could see an alarming player drain the other way.

Lomu continues to light up the game

As just the latest star appearing emerges in the NFL, rugby union seems transfixed on one player's star that simply refuses to fade.

The Jonah Lomu legend was effectively launched 20 years ago this summer when he announced himself to the world with a series of blistering displays during the All Blacks' run to the 1995 Rugby World Cup final where they were of course beaten by South Africa.

He has returned to the headlines this week as the subject of a new documentary that sees him return to the country where he made his name. A powerful trailer sees the now 40-year-old meet with Francois Pienaar, James Small, Joost van der Westhuizen and Jean de Villiers while reflecting on his rise to the very top of the game.

Equally emotional has been the updates on Lomu's medical condition with the former giant wing having battled a rare kidney disorder known as nephrotic syndrome for much of his life. He is now in need of a second kidney transplant with his body having rejected the results of an initially successful first operation back in 2011.

Ever since he has required dialysis for six hours a day, three times a week, to purify his blood and allow him to meet the near-constant commercial demands for his time.

Lomu will be front and centre for much of the forthcoming World Cup on a promotional tour for one of the tournament's key sponsors and as a former giant of the 7s game he is also sure to feature as the build-up continues to the Olympics in Rio next year.

That not only reflects his enduring appeal but the failure of any player ever since to generate as much star power.

The likes of Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Bryan Habana may have excelled for over a decade and players such as Jonny Wilkinson and Sonny Bill Williams may have caught the eye and cashed a few endorsement cheques but have they woven their names into the very fabric of the game and consciousness of the wider sporting public?

The sport has been lucky to have had Lomu – but could do with a couple more.

Who is the fastest man in rugby?

Lomu knew a thing or two about running fast, having run 100m in under 11 seconds, and about delivering on a big occasion with his total of 15 tries still a Rugby World Cup record – but even Usain Bolt could teach him a thing or two having recently clinched just his latest gold medal treble at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Beijing.

Pace has always been a key aspect of rugby union as have been debates about the fastest men to have graced the game. What a great sideshow a sprint contest would make at next month's World Cup but as it is highly unlikely we must make do with debating who has the most gas – and who is the most valuable.

For many, there simply is no debate with USA 7s flyer Carlin Isles widely considered the fastest player in the game thanks largely to his sprinting background. His team-mate Perry Baker is not short of pace either while there must be a special mention for rapid ref Rasta Rasivhenge who has reportedly clocked 10.6sec for 100m.

But what about the XVs game where space is limited and explosive power is arguably more valuable? The turbo-charged Tonderai Chavhanga has left many in his wake and with a reported best of 10.27sec he would also leave plenty of daylight between himself and Bryan Habana over 100m.

Habana was also famously left for dead by another flyer in the form of USA winger Takudzwa Ngwenya and if we were to gauge speed over the often crucial 20-30m distance then the likes of Christian Wade and Jonny May would surely rank among the world's best?

You're the coach – who would you prefer in your side?

Loose Pass is compiled by former scrum.com editor Graham Jenkins

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