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'I quite like tired defences, it would be an interesting change in the laws'

By Liam Heagney

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Wasps boss Lee Blackett has pondered what rugby could be like if the current eight-man subs bench was reduced. Amid concerns over the level of injuries that allegedly happen with so many replacement players coming up against tired players who have been playing since the first minute in matches, there has been a suggestion that the number of subs should be reduced.

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It is something to should prick up Wasps’ ears as the Gallagher Premiership club have recently had matches where they have not used their full complement of eight replacements. For instance, their two starting props, Ben Harris and Kieran Brookes, played the entire 80 minutes of their recent Heineken Champions Cup round of 16 match versus Clermont.

That April 3 game in Coventry was even the second successive full 80-minute appearance for loosehead Harris, exposure totally at odds with the current trend where props around the world get substituted in and around the hour mark.

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Kurtley Beale guests on the latest RugbyPass Offload with Simon Zebo and Ryan Wilson
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Kurtley Beale guests on the latest RugbyPass Offload with Simon Zebo and Ryan Wilson

Asked if rugby having fewer replacements available for a team to use might potentially a positive step forward for the sport as a whole, Blackett said: “My initial thought on it was I’d probably like it the way it is but then I heard someone speak about how it would make the game faster in terms of it could put more fatigue and I quite like the thought of that, of tired defences.

“It would be good for the game. Now whatever comes our way, we will deal with it. I don’t think people are going to listen to my opinion but I quite like tired defences. There would be more points scored in the game so it would be an interesting one, an interesting change in the laws.

“I’d go old school, I’d go zero (replacements). No, I have not really thought about it. It would be really interesting to see what you would do with props, whether you would go back to having one prop and the ability to play both sides. That would make it interesting in terms of that, but the safety of it I don’t know. Let’s go five (subs).”

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Explaining how props Harris and Brookes felt after going the distance in Wasps’ recent European knockout match, Blackett added: “Looking at their faces afterwards I don’t think they want to play full 80. In terms of that, Ben did it against Sale (the previous week). We had just only one loosehead and we had got a tighthead playing at loosehead and to be honest he had done a little bit there but you’re talking about playing prop at the top level. 

“He could do a job for us there but we felt Ben was the right thing to stay. Against Clermont, we thought Kieran was going well because of the scrum so it was pure tactical in terms of that. Ideally, we are at our best when we have got fresh guys coming on. 

“In an ideal world if we have everyone available we would be making changes a lot earlier in terms of that but you just have to treat each game differently. If I was being honest you’d love to make those changes around the 50, 60-minute mark but each game will have a different situation that will require a different tactic.”

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'I quite like tired defences, it would be an interesting change in the laws'

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