Since rugby has entered the professional era, the overall fitness of players has improved dramatically. Gone are the days of backs being small, light-weight individuals and forwards being sluggish, big men carrying excess weight. Rugby has really made great strides in terms of fitness and nutrition, especially with the money now being available to invest in to research and technology for player's fitness.
The fittest rugby players can count themselves as not only being at the top in their own sport but also in terms of athletes across a wide spectrum of sports. While not quite up to the level of people competing in endurance events such as triathlon or cross-country skiing, rugby players can certainly ranks themselves up there with professional footballers, with some rugby players even moving past their football playing peers.
The way that professional rugby has embraced training and nutrition over the last fifteen years makes it difficult to pick out a player from before that time who could challenge any player who is playing in the starting fifteen of the worlds top rugby playing nations. That's a real sign of just how far fitness levels have come in rugby during that time.
Jonah Lomu is one player who, playing as a winger for New Zealand, could power his way past or through any other player, forward or back and he really showed other back-line players what could be achieved. Moving forward to the modern day, if you had to pick one player out for their fitness levels then it's difficult to look beyond another Kiwi, flanker Richie McCaw. Although McCaw has been criticized for pushing the boundaries of what's considered legal play on the field, his fitness levels during a match can not be called in to question. Approaching his mid-thirties, McCaw is the captain of the New Zealand team and brings everything, including endurance, speed, agility and power to the field every time he plays and is definitely one of the fittest rugby players of all time.
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