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.
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.
Reduce the number of available subs, making it more likely that teams will keep them for necessary, not tactical substitutions. Would remove the 50/30 minute gym bunnies.
— Charlie Thomas (@CThomas663) January 27, 2020
Reduce number of subs. The problem is players being conditioned to play 50 mins, therefore fitness is second to strength. If you decrease subs it means players have to be fitter = smaller, therefore reduce injury. Plus think of excitement in last twenty with gaps every where.
— John Mounter (@john10mounter) January 27, 2020
I agree with him. It'll enforce players to have the aerobic ability to last 80 which will likely lead to a reduction in size and power for many forwards. Also increases the chances of mismatches late in games which increases the stock of smaller faster players
— Rob Hill (@3003Rob) January 27, 2020
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.
Surely it’s impossible to police?
— Howie Gosling (@Howgozza) January 27, 2020
Uncontested scrums? The equivalent of Bloodgate when someone is having a mare?
— karen Wright (@RuggerHugger70) January 27, 2020
Bill Beaumont Is a moron then. Muscle fatigue will make up the vast majority of injuries. Preventing players getting in the ‘red zone’ is the only way to prevent this squads aren’t big enough to completely rotate 15 every game.
— . (@s_n_e_l_l_s) January 27, 2020
I don’t think it will work, an exhausted player could be at risk of far greater injury
— Sean (@Seanponty) January 27, 2020
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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