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These 21 players were told they were too small to 'make it' in rugby

BY Grant Constable  ·  Friday Mar 5, 2021

World Cup winner Cheslin Kolbe recently shared how he was told he was “too small to compete” in rugby while growing up. The South African is certainly not the first person to be told this though, and for many it provides the motivation they need.

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So here are other players that have been told they are too small:

Shane Williams
A pioneer for a player like Kolbe, Wales’ top try scorer Shane Williams bucked the trend in an era where backs were getting bigger and bigger.
Height: 5ft 7in/ 1.7m
Weight: 12st 8lb/ 80kg

Faf de Klerk
World Cup winning scrum-half Faf de Klerk has previously said that being told he was too small was the motivation he needed to succeed.
Height: 5ft 7in/ 1.7m
Weight: 13st 12lb/ 88kg

Schalk Brits
In an era of John Smit and Bismarck du Plessis, former Springboks hooker Schalk Brits was deemed too small. But he was brought in from the cold by Rassie Erasmus at the age of 38 and became a world champion.
Height: 6ft/ 1.82m
Weight: 15st 10lb/ 100kg

Kwagga Smith
Another World Cup winner, flanker Kwagga Smith was seen as too small for the 15 man game having come from sevens.
Height: 5ft 10in/ 1.8m
Weight: 14st 2lb/ 90kg

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Harry Thacker
Now thriving at Bristol Bears, 93kg hooker Harry Thacker was let go by Leicester Tigers in 2018 for being too small.
Height: 5ft 8in/ 1.73m
Weight: 14st 9lb/ 93kg

CJ Stander
As one of Ireland’s most powerful back row ball carriers, it is hard to believe that CJ Stander was told he was too small for a South African loose forward when with the Bulls.
Height: 6ft 1in/ 1.85m
Weight: 17st 11lb/ 114kg

Sam Simmonds
Exeter Chiefs coach Rob Baxter has said that his star No8 Sam Simmonds is too small in Eddie Jones’ opinion to play No8 at Test level despite tearing up trees week in week out.
Height: 6ft/ 1.84m
Weight: 16st 3lb/ 103kg

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Heinrich Brussow
Former South Africa and Northampton Saints flanker Heinrich Brussow used being ‘too small’ to his advantage. His small stature and low centre of gravity made him almost immovable over the ball.
Height: 5ft 11in/ 1.81m
Weight: 16st 3lb/ 103kg

Small players

Neil Back
At under 100kgs, Neil Back was initially deemed not big enough by England selectors to play international rugby in the back row. But that became part of his selling point, and aided him in his fitness and workrate.
Height: 5ft 10in/ 1.78m
Weight: 14st 9lb/ 93kg

Christian Wade
Arguably one of the most underused players by England in recent years as a result of his size, Christian Wade is now pursuing a career in the NFL.
Height: 5ft 9in/ 1.74m
Weight: 12st 13lb/ 82kg

Harry Randall
One of Eddie Jones’ latest selections in the England squad, scrum-half Harry Randall has said it is not nice being told you are too small, but it has given him confidence.
Height: 5ft 8in/ 1.73m
Weight: 11st 5lb/ 72kg

Juan de Jongh
Wasps centre Juan de Jongh is not a small player by any stretch of the imagination, but former Springboks boss Heyneke Meyer thought so.
Height: 5ft 10in/ 1.78m
Weight: 13st 10lb/ 87kg

Small players

Josh Navidi
At one point there were questions whether Josh Navidi could make the grade as a Test flanker. Though he is not the biggest, the Welshman has manhandled most he has come up against.
Height: 6ft 1in/ 1.86m
Weight: 16st 6lb/ 105kg

Brent Russell
For many South Africa fans, 23 caps was far too few for a player with the skill, speed and movement of Brent Russell, but his size, and his versatility, may have worked against him.
Height: 5ft 9in/ 1.75m
Weight: 13st 1lb/ 103kg

Damian McKenzie
All Black Damian McKenzie is one of the most diminutive players in the game, and playing at fullback there have always been concerns that he will be exposed under the high ball. Such is his class, however, that that has never been a problem.
Height: 5ft 9in/ 1.75m
Weight: 12st 8lb/ 80kg

Darcy Graham
Scotland and Edinburgh’s Darcy Graham is another player who says he has been told he is too small, but he packs a punch for his size.
Height: 5ft 10in/ 1.78m
Weight: 13st 3lb/ 84kg

Small players

Warren Whiteley
Former Springboks No8 Warren Whiteley was let go by the Sharks early in his career for not being big enough.
Height: 6ft 4in/ 1.93m
Weight: 17st/ 108kg

Leigh Halfpenny
Wales’ Leigh Halfpenny was also told he was too small in his teenage years, but has gone on to become one of the most dependable and defensively solid fullbacks in the game.
Height: 5ft 10in/ 1.78m
Weight: 13st 4lb/ 85kg

Aphiwe Dyantyi
As a schoolboy, Aphiwe Dyantyi was told he was not big enough to play rugby. Fast forward only a few years and the South African was being crowned the World Rugby breakthrough player of the year. Unfortunately, he was later banned for doping.
Height: 6ft/ 1.82m
Weight: 13st 10lb/ 87kg

Jean-Pierre Rives
Former France captain Jean-Pierre Rives cut a slight figure, and was told he did not have the weight to play in the pack at international level. But that did not stop the swashbuckling flanker.
Height: 5ft 11in/ 1.8m
Weight: 12st 13lb/ 82kg

small players

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