World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont has shown an interest in a major change in the laws of rugby which would see players substituted only if they were injured. 

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This is not too dissimilar to a suggestion recently made by referee Nigel Owens, and while it may seem like a move back towards the amateur era, it is an attempt to reduce the number of injuries in the game. 

Such a radical law change has been met with a mixed reaction, with as many people seemingly for it as against it. 

The rationale behind such a move is to encourage players to play the entirety of a match, limiting the emphasis on size and strength, and rather prioritising skill and endurance. This would reduce the size of players and therefore lessen the intensity of collisions. Furthermore, it cuts out the common risk in the game of fresh players from the bench coming up against fatigued players towards the end of each match. 

 

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While this is the theory behind such an idea, some fear that it will not work in practice, and it will actually increase the number of fatigue-related muscle injuries in the game as players burnout. Another concern is that the tackle technique of fatigued players will only deteriorate in the latter stages of the game, which will create more injury problems. 

Of course, this is why there would be a greater emphasis on the stamina of players and their ability to last 80 minutes in order to avoid these problems. 

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One thing that does seem inevitable is the chance of players feigning injuries, and consequently how hard this will be to police. Already teams find ways around blood and head injury assessment replacements so that they can bring players on when they choose, and Beaumont’s law change will only increase the amount of subterfuge and underhand tactics in a match.

It has also been stressed that this should only be in the higher tiers of the game, as such a law in grassroots rugby would stultify and hamper the inclusivity of players.  

Ultimately, Beaumont and World Rugby’s goal is to limit the number of injuries across the game, and an idea like this may be trialled soon to see its success. 

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