Ahead of Saturday’s rugby world cup final at Twickenham, SPIKES take a trip down memory lane to find out more about the close connection between the sport and athletics .

C.B. Fry

An extraordinary chap in anyone's book, C.B. Fry was an English renaissance man active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Arguably the greatest all-round sportsman in history, he represented England at cricket and football, making an appearance for Southampton in the 1904 FA Cup final.

His athletics was red-hot too. He set a British long jump record in 1892 before equalling the world record with a leap of 7.17m the following year (after a good lunch and a cigar, apparently). Oh, and did we mention he played rugby for Cambridge University, Blackheath and the Barbarians, too? One wonders where he found the time.

And you thought 21st century athletics television coverage was bad

Eric Liddell

Finding fame through his role in Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell won seven caps for Scotland as a rugby winger before focusing on athletics. A deeply religious man, he chose to switch events from the 100m (because the heats were held on a Sunday) at the 1924 Paris Olympics to the 400m and still went on to strike gold.

“The Flying Scotsman” went on to serve as a missionary teacher in China where he died in 1945 in a Japanese civilian internment camp.

JJ Williams

Best known for his rugby feats in a golden age for the game, flying winger JJ Williams earned 30 caps for Wales and played a key role in their 1974 invincible series win against South Africa.

He also used his blistering pace to good effect on the athletics track, and ran for Wales in the 4x100m at the 1970 Commonwealth Games. His strong athletics genes were passed down to his son, Rhys Williams, who won the 2012 European 400m hurdles title.

JJ Williams ()

Williams (14) moments before he gets pummelled. Should have stuck with athletics. No one gets pummelled in athletics. Scratch that they definitely do.

Ugo Monye

A promising sprinter as a youngster, Ugo Monye competed at the English Schools Championships as a 100m sprinter before focusing on rugby. Monye went on to enjoy a highly accomplished rugby career earning 14 caps for England as making two Test appearances for the British Lions in 2009 before retiring earlier this year. His sister Chinedu was a silver medallist at the English Schools Championships in the 200m.

Renaud Lavillenie

We are not entirely sure of the rugby qualities of the world pole vault record holder, but Lavillenie is a passionate supporter of top French rugby team Clermont Auvergne.

In fact, ahead of a 2010 European club clash between his favourite team and English side Saracens, he entertained the fans by popping nonchalantly over the 3m high crossbar.

Insanely fantastically idiotically brilliant

Lachie Turner

Australian international winger Lachie Turner ensured rugby union had the bragging rights by winning the 100m sprint to find the fastest man in the footie codes. The 15-times capped Wallaby scorched to the win in an impressive 11.10 ahead of the quickest men in rugby league, Aussie rules football and soccer back in 2010.

Interestingly, two places behind Turner was Jarryd Hayne, the former rugby league player who is now stars as a running back for the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL. 

Turner proves his pace 

Nigel Walker

Aged 18, blisteringly fast Welshman Nigel Walker chose to focus on athletics over rugby, his other passion.

Walker went on to represent Great Britain in the 110m hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics Games. He later won 60m hurdles bronze medals at both the European indoors and world indoors.

Aged 29 he returned to rugby where he won 17 caps for Wales, scoring 12 tries. Today Walker works as National Director at the English Institute of Sport.

A good runner, was Walker

Lawrence Okoye

Multi-talented Londoner Lawrence Okoye was a gifted teenage rugby player. He starred for the London Irish academy team before the 6ft 6ins tall Okoye opted to pursue discus.

An overnight sensation in his new sport, he set a British record and also reached the final of the 2012 London Olympics. Sadly he decided to walk away from athletics to focus on an NFL career, and signed for the San Francisco 49ers in 2013. In September this year he joined the Arizona Cardinals.


Isles leaves his rivals for dust

Carlin Isles

Determined to make the Rio Olympic Games but believing his chances were slim as a 10.24 100m sprinter, American Carlin Isles decided to switch to Rugby sevens three years ago. It has proved an inspired move; within months he was playing for the USA and he was quickly branded "the fastest man in rugby".