(Reuters) - Rugby internationals from two codes, Australian Valentine Holmes and England’s Christian Wade, have been added to the practice squads of the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills as part of the NFL’s international player pathway program.
Australian rugby league international Holmes, a prolific try-scorer for the Cronulla Sharks, ripped up his contract with his club at the end of last season to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL.
The 23-year-old has been listed as a running back/wide receiver/kick returner and will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Jarryd Hayne, who suited up in eight regular season games for the San Francisco 49ers in 2015.
The pacy 27-year-old Wade played one rugby union international on the wing for England in 2013 after building a reputation as one of the best finishers in the game. He is projected to play at running back, the Bills said.
Both players will be the 11th man on their teams’ practice squads, and 91st on the roster overall, and be retained at least through to the end of their pre-season training camps.
Four AFC teams will carry an extra player on their squads this year under the program, which aims to provide hopefuls from around the world to “compete at NFL level, improve their skills, and ultimately earn a spot on an NFL roster”.
The Miami Dolphins have taken on Brazilian defensive tackle Durval Neto, while German tight end Jakob Johnson, who played at the University of Tennessee, joins the New England Patriots.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Greg Stutchbury