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Warren Gatland Echoes The Sentiments Of Those Calling For An Old School Rule Change In Rugby

Warren Gatland Echoes The Sentiments Of Those Calling For An Old School Rule Change In Rugby
By Conor Neville Updated

When Mick Galwey dragged Rory Underwood over the line in Ireland's famous win over England in 1993, rugby union maintained a ban on substitutions for anything other than injury.

Assuming no one was maimed in combat, then the team that began the game would finish the game. It's all very different now. We live in the era of bench emptying with players withdrawn for tactical reasons and for simply being tired.

On Sunday, Ireland's favourite rugby writer Stephen Jones argued we should return to the ban on replacements which prevailed in the amateur days.

Only doctors would be allowed make substitutions. He suggested that as players tired, greater space would open up and the ferocity of the challenges would diminish.

A little tiredness is good for the game and for avoiding injuries. You cannot hit so hard and so often. You cannot be exactly in your place on the defensive line. The lack of fresh reinforcements would open space in which to attack. The idea for decades was to dominate the opposition and drain them so that in the final quarter, attacking chances would open up. The intensity of the defence would fall away, the size of the collisions would lessen. Perfect.

Wales coach Warren Gatland is now floating this proposal. As reported by Simon Thomas in Wales Online and Paul Rees in the Guardian, Gatland attributes the demise of French Flair to greater fitness levels and impenetrable defensive systems.

He wondered aloud whether a return to injury only replacement would lead to greater space opening up in the closing stages of games.

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Do you go back to injury replacements so that players become more fatigued and not quite as big and powerful as they are now?

Those are things for the rule makers to look at and it’s a concern for the game that we are conditioning 130-140kg players to last for 15-20 minutes [as replacements], whereas in the old days if they were starting they would be gone after 40-50 minutes, opening up the room we are all craving at the moment.

As it is, the breaks you tend to get now come from someone missing a tackle or making a system error and that does not happen much at the top level. We are all trying to be innovative but the more creative you try to become, the better teams become defensively.

So, it's clear then.

There is no way that better attacking strategies are going to break down teams. There's only one thing for it. So, defences are going to have to get worse.

Of course, New Zealand somehow still manage to score tries. Not sure how they do it.

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Read more: Stephen Jones Has An Unusual Plan To Improve Rugby By Banning Substitutions

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