Brutal. Vicious. Bone-jarring.
Every YouTube video featuring "big hits" has terms like these tagged on it, but few of them earn the descriptors quite like rugby. Everyone's unprotected, half of them are the size of small sheds and they're coming at each other like men at war.
With that, the biggest hits we see in rugby are often crunching, flesh-on-flesh car wrecks—and these are some of the worst.
Take off your pads and hike up your socks because it's time for rugby hits that will make your bones hurt.
Long hair doesn’t care, especially when it’s rugby.
Isa Nacewa was a multi-threat utility back in his playing days, and the Fijian-born footballer certainly took advantage of a wide open shot on Bath’s Dan Hipkiss.
As the commentators put it, “The crowd don’t like it, but the neutrals, they might think that is wonderful.”
As a neutral, I agree with this assessment.
Opeti Fonua is a giant, and as such, tackling the big Tongan can be problematic.
Fonua is listed at 6’5”, 331 pounds, and he delivered every single bit of that size on English rugby great Jonny Wilkinson, whose body is lifted into the air by the hit and lands on the ground like a broken toy.
Credit to Wilkinson, who is 5’10”, 196 pounds and still had the stones to stand in his way.
Lesley Vainikolo blindsided Martin Aspinwall. Then he stood up and appeared to point to the sideline.
He was most likely just pointing for his teammates to keep an eye on things, but the general message of the hit is, “Daddy’s home. Time for you to scram.”
Is the exit over here? Alright, I’ll see myself out.
Not much is known about this video except that this guy hustled his butt off, failed at gathering the ball and then somehow managed to slip through the first line.
Oh, he was also destroyed. Let's not forget that he was destroyed.
Super rugby hooker (great combo of words) Motu Matu’u was going for a clean hit, but he appears to have caught a bit of Mark Gerard’s chin on this heavy hit.
Matu’u wasn’t done, however, and the Hurricanes enforcer leveled another hit on the Melbourne Rebels team, dropping Lachlan Mitchell with a similar tackle.
Tuilagi was watching the kick roll out of bounds when Leinster wing Shane Horgan laid an unexpected shoulder into him—a bit of gamesmanship that Tuilagi did not enjoy in the least.
The big Samoan pointed Horgan out and smiled, letting him know that he would remember that bit. Tuilagi didn’t forget the slight, and his revenge was an open-field truck-sticking on Horgan, who was left crawling on the pitch.
The sound of this hit makes you wonder if it was really that loud, or if someone embedded a microphone in this Utah player’s spine.
The hit laid by Cal’s Danny Barrett was ferocious (and a touch late), but the worst part is the angle at which the two men hit the ground.
Barrett lands on top of the Utah player, whose shoulder and head hit the ground first. Falling like this on a trampoline would hurt, but hitting the ground this way with a 220-pound man on your back...yow.
Earlier this June, a high school rugby player in New Zealand laid a hit so hard, its shockwaves were felt around the world—metaphorically, of course.
The Internet went bonkers when a video of Ruslan Casey, a member of the Waganui Collegiate rugby team, exploded into St. Paul’s Kip Fawcett.
The tackle came after a full cross-field pursuit by Casey, and the loud smack of their bodies colliding sounded like a watermelon striking pavement.
Unfortunately for Ruslan, Fawcett timed his pass perfectly and St. Paul went ahead for the try. Kudos also go to Fawcett for his ability stand up after the blow, which would’ve left most of us wallowing in the dirt.
Standing at 6’4” and weighing in at 230 pounds, Ben Matulino is a big, big man.
Which brings me to my next point—don’t run into big men, at least not straight up like Sam Thaiday of the Brisbane Broncos does in this video.
The result will be wreckage and trips to the hospital and/or salon—because only morphine and a perm could probably make Thaiday feel better about this bashing.
Old school. Black and white. Destruction.
Springbok centre Joggie Jansen became a South African hero after mangling the All-Blacks’ Wayne Cottrell in 1970.
Jansen is 65 years old now, but there’s no way he’s forgotten the sweet crunch he put on the All-Blacks 43 years ago.
Love him or hate him, Josh Papalii comes at you like a trained attack badger—unpredictably, and in ways that will haunt your waking hours.
He’s small, but he packs a wallop, and this video of him bringing the whomp in this video is hair-raising.
My ribs shift just watching it, and I can only help to think somewhere on the sideline, Sergeant Lincoln Osiris was willing this man to pull through.
“Watch out for Mortlock” are some of the last words you ever want to hear when you’re on the pitch.
The commentators tried to cry a warning, but it was too late for Tony Woodcock, the star loosehead from New Zealand.
Woodcock didn’t even see Australia’s Stirling Mortlock (my God, that name) fire into his ribs, but he certainly felt it. It was Mortlock on Woodcock, and it looked as painful as it sounds.
Tonga’s David Halaifonua went high and laid a cruel, vicious hit on Canadian winger Matt Evans.
The hit was highly illegal, and earned Halaifonua a six-week suspension for the shoulder to the head. The hit nearly tore Evans' head off, but according to the Tongan coach, his team was being unfairly targeted by the referees.
Tackles this high are frowned upon in rugby, and you can see why from this hit Adrian Morley inflicted on the Rabbitohs’ Ben Walker.
Morley goes up high, leads with one shoulder and the initial contact starts at the head. Walker crumples to the ground in frightening fashion, as befitting of a man who just got blindsided by a battering ram in full sprint.
Morley and the Roosters went on to win the match, but observers agreed the high shoulder marred the victory.
It wasn’t a rugby tackle; it was an attack.
For once it was Adrian Morley who found himself on the end of the pain-stick when Wigan’s Mick Cassidy leveled him with a vicious shot to the head. It was one of the ugliest elbows you could ever see thrown in professional sports, and it immediately KO'd the Leeds prop forward.
Obviously, this is highly illegal and not representative of a good rugby hit—but the title of the slideshow is “Rugby Hits That Will Make Your Bones Hurt.”
This one makes me want to solder a bird cage around my head just so I never have to experience something like this. I can deal with drinking kale juice as my only sustenance if it means not having to pick my teeth out of Mick Cassidy’s forearm.
So I think this one meets our requirements.
When your nickname is based on joint adjustment and manipulation and your business isn’t in the healthcare industry, you’re one bad mother.
Ben “The Chiropractor” Lima is one such individual, and his hit on Derick Hougaard looked to shift a few ribs into the back of the South African.
Lima barely touches the ground before he’s off and after the ball. Just another day in the office for this bad doctor.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves came at Simon Dwyer looking to wreak havoc and deliver a kill shot.
Unfortunately for the Sydney Rooster second-rower, Dwyer was built of stronger stuff than he anticipated. The two came together like dueling rams and only Dwyer was left standing after leveling his opponent with a huge shoulder.
In other words, a stoppable force hit a highly immovable object.
The shoulder charge is a controversial move in the world of rugby, and some would have it banned for the safety of the players.
That being said, Dean Young—the recipient of one of the most jarring shoulder charges in the history of the game—has no problem with it.
Young was knocked out cold by South Sydney Rabbitohs’ Greg Inglis, who hit him with a shoulder that will make you rethink everything you know about human-on-human collisions.
Despite being concussed by the hit, Young still thinks the shoulder charge is a valuable part of the game.
“I don’t have an issue with what Greg Inglis did,” Young said. “I just think the timing went wrong and he collected me in the head.”
Never change, rugby.