Players hit light speed to beat Millennium Falcon

Welsh rugby’s fastest players stepped into another dimension yesterday and declared ‘anything Habana can do I can do better’.

Bryan Habana versus a cheetah
The cheetah clearly didn't hear the starter's pistol

Wales’ international stars went one better than their South African counterpart Bryan Habana, who famously raced a cheetah, as they took on a Peregrine Falcon, at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium today (Thursday 1st April).

Habana, whose World Champion Springbok side travel to Cardiff to play Wales at the Millennium Stadium on 5th June, faced the world’s fastest land animal in a foot race – a South African Cheetah which reaches top speeds of up to 70mph – in one of the most famous pieces of internet video footage available for download on youtube.

So, with this summer’s clash with the South Africans at front of mind, Stadium bosses decided to put the players to the test and race them against the Millennium’s very own Falcon.

Harry, the Peregrine Falcon who is housed at the National Stadium and flown around the main bowl area to keep the pigeons away, can dive headfirst down through the sky at speeds of up to 200mph when he decides to pounce on prey – making his species the fastest on the planet.

“The Falcon obviously has the added advantage of being able to make full use of gravity,” said Joe King, a sports scientist from the Llewbacha University in North Wales who officiated on the race with the Millennium’s Falcon.

“So we rigged up a special ramp running from the roof of the Millennium Stadium to the centre of the pitch for the players to run down.

“We clocked some speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour and actually it was some of the larger forwards who recorded the fastest times.

“It’s all to do with the equation between terminal velocity, size and gravity, it helps if you get a good jump on the Falcon at the start and put a good slide in towards the end.

“Once it started to rain two props actually came down at speeds which were off our scale, so we have recorded them as hitting light speed as they definitely came down faster than the human eye could see.

“In the end everyone beat the Falcon, Harry wasn’t really interested in racing and just sort of flapped a bit when we told him we thought Shane would have beaten him easily.”


Tickets for Wales’ clash with the world champion Springboks on Saturday 5th June at the Millennium Stadium are available now via a pre-registration system at and are priced at £25, £40, £50 and £65.

The world’s fastest living things:

– If there were a flying race, the Spine-tailed Swift would win (106mph).

– If there were a running race, the Cheetah would win (70mph).

– If there were a swimming race the Shortfin Mako shark would win. According to the ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research, ‘It has been reliably clocked at 31 miles (50 kilometres) per hour, and there is a claim that one individual of this species achieved a burst speed of 46 miles (74 kilometers) per hour.’