'Rugby greats' letter

timmad

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Several British and Irish Lions greats have called on World Rugby to allow replacements to be made only for injuries to make the sport safer and help prevent the prospect of a player losing his life on the field. (Planet Rugby)

I agree with one of their key points about subs. You can have 8 on the bench but can use only 4 and then just to replace injured players. However, while this would return rugby to being an 80 minute game for most players, I fear that the pro teams would soon repeat 'bloodgate' or create brokenleggate or even tornfingernailgate.
 

Camquin

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I would go with interchanges, but reduce the bench to 5. Works fine in the semi-pro game and simplifies the law book.
 

Ian_Cook


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Several British and Irish Lions greats have called on World Rugby to allow replacements to be made only for injuries to make the sport safer and help prevent the prospect of a player losing his life on the field. (Planet Rugby)

I agree with one of their key points about subs. You can have 8 on the bench but can use only 4 and then just to replace injured players. However, while this would return rugby to being an 80 minute game for most players, I fear that the pro teams would soon repeat 'bloodgate' or create brokenleggate or even tornfingernailgate.

I completely disagree with their view - you can't put the genie back in the lamp.

Not only would it almost certainly result in bloodgate-like shenanigans, it would also result in more #royallyrogered uncontested scrums like the Wasps v Tigers malarkey and few years ago.

Additionally, you will almost certainly get players who get injured and who cannot be replaced due to no more replacements, playing on and putting them at risk of aggravating that injury or sustaining another injury.

Rugby has come so far dealing with player safety - I don't want to see the game going back to the bad old days of shrugging off injuries and head-knocks, it would undo all the progress they have made, and put game safety back 20 years.
 

Marc Wakeham


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Not to mention "tame" doctors confirming that the prop getting his arse handed to him is "injured". Some folk have short term memories.
 

Camquin

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Interchanges also simplify the law book.
We would lose 3,4, 3.9, 3.17 and 3.21-23 and 3.25 to 3.34
3.5 is editted to read five.
The table in 3.8 needs a new column for the number of interchanges (from the table on the NLR site). The entries for 21,22 and 23 deleted.

Code:
# players #interchanges
]15,16,17 none
18        eight
19        nine
20        ten

Then add the following text slightly modified from the NLR site.
If a Player has an open wound and thus has to leave the field, this will be classified as a Player Interchange if that Player is replaced by another Player. If a team has used all of its Player Interchanges, that Player may not be replaced and the team shall continue with one less Player than was on the pitch. The Player is permitted to return once the wound has been treated and the bleeding stopped.

Not more than two Player Interchanges per team may occur at any one time and may only occur during a stoppage in play and with the knowledge of the Referee who is entitled in his sole opinion to refuse to allow or postpone a Player Interchange if he believes either that the Player Interchange would prevent the opposition from restarting the game quickly or where a Player has been injured or that it would not be safe for the replacement Player who has been previously injured to play in the match.

A Player who is a replacement shall not be entitled to take a kick at goal until a passage of play has taken place since that Player took to the field of play.

A Player who suffers two injuries in a match which has necessitated that Player being replaced on each occasion is not permitted to act as a replacement following the second injury.

Note this suggsted edit removes the HIA - leaving 3.24 any player suspected of concussion must be permanently removed.The replacement is simply an interchange.

If people want to keep the HIA, 3.24 would need a clause permitting a player who passed a sanctioned HIA to return. But it is still just an interchange.

Note NLR used to be NCA.
 

Marc Wakeham


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However, "Interchanges also simplify the law book." is not a good starting point for law changes. Is the law change good for the game? Is.
 

Camquin

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Yes, but we already know it works, as it has been used for virtually every rugby match in England for many seasons.
 

didds

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Anyone recall the SA v NZ test series 20 or whatever years ago and "injuries" and "replacements" ?

IanC has it nailed.
 

KoolFork

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I'm surprised how narrow this conversation is. The impact of head injuries is not going to go away across all collision sports. It's not rocket science. Momentum = mass x velocity (speed) and Force = mass x acceleration. Mass is in both equations, so reducing mass should help to make collisions less dangerous. The idea of them being safe is for the birds. Reducing speed will also help - which you would expect as a game progresses, especially for heavier players.

I personally don't like the current regime and would prefer players to play the full 80 (and for the ball to be in play for longer). In my view, rugby should be a game of attrition where you wear down your opponents.

One fix to the tame doctor solution (how many doctors are pitchside outside elite rugby?) might be a requirement to skip the next game? This would be good for player welfare too.
 

Phil E


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It's not rocket science. Momentum = mass x velocity (speed) and Force = mass x acceleration.

Surely that is (at least part of) Rocket Science :chin:
 

Ian_Cook


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I'm surprised how narrow this conversation is. The impact of head injuries is not going to go away across all collision sports. It's not rocket science. Momentum = mass x velocity (speed) and Force = mass x acceleration. Mass is in both equations, so reducing mass should help to make collisions less dangerous. The idea of them being safe is for the birds. Reducing speed will also help - which you would expect as a game progresses, especially for heavier players.

I personally don't like the current regime and would prefer players to play the full 80 (and for the ball to be in play for longer). In my view, rugby should be a game of attrition where you wear down your opponents.

One fix to the tame doctor solution (how many doctors are pitchside outside elite rugby?) might be a requirement to skip the next game? This would be good for player welfare too.

Great plan if you want top level players to have lifelong injuries and severe health issues when they retire from the game. Ever heard of Steve Devine?

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/spo...epeated-concussions-left-him-dead-man-walking

This was 20 years ago, and part of what didds was referring to.

This is what you want to go back to!?
 

KoolFork

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Great plan if you want top level players to have lifelong injuries and severe health issues when they retire from the game. Ever heard of Steve Devine?

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/spo...epeated-concussions-left-him-dead-man-walking

This was 20 years ago, and part of what didds was referring to.

This is what you want to go back to!?

Hi Ian,

No, of course not. This is exactly what I want to avoid.

As ever, I should have been clearer. I am not against replacements for injury, but we should seek to limit avoidable injuries. The Laws have been going this way for some time, but we haven't done a whole heap about collision other than HIAs and even then we allow players, eg Biggar in the recent Lions series, back too early.

It's pretty clear that brain injuries don't require a concussion. In a recent study of 44 elite players by Imperial College, London (so, no way is this a Mickey Mouse piece of research), a quarter had brain abnormalities. See https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/2021/07/22/shocked-mps-slam-british-sport-inaction-brain-injuries/

Anything that bangs the brain around inside the skull is probably detrimental. Most head-on tackles at any speed will generate huge forces - just think about the deceleration required to bring Am to s stop in his tackle on Daly. See https://www.skysports.com/watch/vid...o-cape-town-lukhanyo-am-wipes-out-elliot-daly
 

Ian_Cook


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Hi Ian,

No, of course not. This is exactly what I want to avoid.

As ever, I should have been clearer. I am not against replacements for injury, but we should seek to limit avoidable injuries. The Laws have been going this way for some time, but we haven't done a whole heap about collision other than HIAs and even then we allow players, eg Biggar in the recent Lions series, back too early.

It's pretty clear that brain injuries don't require a concussion. In a recent study of 44 elite players by Imperial College, London (so, no way is this a Mickey Mouse piece of research), a quarter had brain abnormalities. See https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/2021/07/22/shocked-mps-slam-british-sport-inaction-brain-injuries/

Anything that bangs the brain around inside the skull is probably detrimental. Most head-on tackles at any speed will generate huge forces - just think about the deceleration required to bring Am to s stop in his tackle on Daly. See https://www.skysports.com/watch/vid...o-cape-town-lukhanyo-am-wipes-out-elliot-daly

There is also this study, also not a mickey mouse piece of research

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-0-387-72577-2_4/

In summary, it shows that fatigue and tiredness increases the likelihood of a player sustaining an injury. This is why I support the idea of both injury replacements and substitutions.

Not all players carry the same workload in a rugby match. Scrum-halves, while not travelling the furthest (that would be the outside backs) nonetheless carry the greatest load for endurance because they effectively run from breakdown to breakdown with almost no respite. This is why it is quite rare in the modern game to see a scrum-half go much beyond 65 minutes playing time.

Loose forwards, particularly the openside and No 8, carry the greatest combined or shared load for endurance and strength. They don't always get to every breakdown as they are required to cleanout, jackle and carry the ball, all of which can leave them at a breakdown and often unable to get to the next one quickly enough.

Props have the greatest requirements for strength, obviously as a result of their role in the game. The last thing a prop should ever be doing is packing down in a scrum when they are exhausted. Doing so put them risk of a debilitating injury such as a neck or back injury.

It is for these reasons, that players should not have to be pressured into playing-on beyond the point of exhaustion, that I 100% oppose any idea of reducing the number of substitutes and injury replacements. The game has evolved in the last 25 years from a mere contact sport into sport involving highly intense collisions and confrontations. The problem is that while, to a certain extent, training and conditioning methods have also evolved, its is not enough, because humans have not.

ETA:
Additionally, I do not believe that a smaller number revolving substitutes is the answer at the higher levels of the game either. Rugby Union is one of the most player position-specialised sports out there, with specific roles for specific positions, often requiring specific physical attributes.

I often hear the argument that it works in Rugby League; they use the "interchange bench", but there are very specific reasons why it works in that sport. It works there because many of the positions are interchangeable. There are no line-outs, so no need for very tall players, and scrums are not contested, so no need for fatties with immense strength and great scrummaging technique. The result is that the forwards and most of the backs in RL have pretty much the same build (half-back excepted). This is why it is not uncommon to see players playing in the forwards and the backs (for example, Shaun Timmins, Luke Lewis, Wade Graham, Ben Henry and Brad Fittler).
 
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SimonSmith


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Ian_Cook


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Compared to those from the professional eras of full substitutions who are pictures of long term health?

No.

Simon, you've spent too long in America. You've become infected with their "if its not a 100% fix then don't fix it" mentality (see the gun debate)

Take a look at the Laws at the beginning of the professional era, beginning in 1996...

[LAWS]LAW 3. NUMBER OF PLAYERS
(3) Replacement of players shall be allowed in recognized trial matches as determined by the Union having jurisdiction over the match.
(4) In all other matches, a player may be replaced only on account of injury and subject to the following conditions:
(a) Not more than four players in each team may be replaced.
(b) A player who has been permanently replaced must NOT resume playing
in the match.[/LAWS]
So NO substitutes, only injury replacements, and only four allowed, and the injury replacement had to have a doctor's approval. This remained in place until the term "Substitutes" was introduced in the 2000 rewrite...

[LAWS]LAW 3 – NUMBER OF PLAYERS
DEFINITIONS
A team consists of fifteen players who start the match plus any authorised replacements and/or substitutes.

Replacement. A player who replaces an injured team-mate.
Substitute. A player who replaces a team-mate for tactical reasons.

3.8 THE DECISION FOR PERMANENT REPLACEMENT
(a) When a national representative team is playing in a match, a player may be replaced only when, in the opinion of a doctor, the player is so injured that it would be unwise for that player to continue playing in that match.[/LAWS]

So we now had 7 players on the bench, and tactical subs were allowed, but an injured player could only still only be replaced if a doctor said so, and there was no requirement for any of the bench players to be a front row player. That didn't come in until a law change in 2003...

[LAWS]3.5 SUITABLY TRAINED AND EXPERIENCED PLAYERS IN THE
FRONT ROW
(d) When 19, 20, 21 or 22 players are nominated in a team there must be
sufficient front row players to play at hooker, tight-head prop and loosehead
prop who are suitably trained and experienced to ensure that on
both the first and second occasions that a replacement in any front row
position is required, the team can continue to play safely with contested
scrums.[/LAWS]

This remained in place until the Laws around front row payers on the bench changed again in 2014

[LAWS]3.4 PLAYERS NOMINATED AS SUBSTITUTES
(a) For international matches a Union may nominate up to eight replacements/substitutes.
(b) For other matches, the Union or match organiser with jurisdiction over the match decides how many replacements/substitutes may be nominated to a maximum of eight.

3.5 THE FRONT ROW - REPLACEMENTS AND SUBSTITUTIONS
(a) The table below indicates the numbers of suitably trained and experienced players available for the front row when nominating different numbers of players

Number of players and minimum number of suitably trained and experienced players
15 or less Three players who can play in the front row
16, 17 or 18 Four players who can play in the front row
19, 20, 21 or 22 Five players who can play in the front row
23 Six players who can play in the front row[/LAWS]

So now an extra player was allowed making 8, but that player had to be a front row player, so nothing was really gained in terms of tactical substitutions

Now that we have reached this point, there will be a problem if you reduce the number of substitutes from 8 to 4 as they suggest. Having "8 on the bench but can use only 4 and then just to replace injured players." when three of those players will have to be front row players will only allow you ONE injury to the other 12 players on the field. If your 1st 5/8 gets injured, you can replace him. If your fullback then gets injured you're fecked because you can't replace him - that will take away a front row injury replacement, and could result in you later having a man-off situation with uncontested scrums if front rowers get injured.

At the professional level, this will almost certainly lead to players playing on with injuries, a situation that Rugby Union has bee doing its best to avoid.
 

RedCapRef

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The issue that the “Rugby Greats” raise is valid in that the fitness profile of modern players has changed and as a result the impact forces involved in the tackle and other collision points including scrums and clear-outs at ruck is greater. The changes in rules over the years have also had an impact on where those points of contact are but that is another discussion.
At the elite level half the team are not expected to play for the duration of a game so you are always going to have a risk of a fresh player being able to contest against a player with a significant fatigue factor affecting their ability to withstand the collision.
You cannot put the genie back in the bottle for multiple reasons including that a number of elite players are probably not aerobically fit enough to play a season of full games, so that it would take a period of adjustment for the players to modify their match fitness anyway.
That does not mean that we should just accept that what we currently have is the best solution. WR could think about the timing of tactical solutions so that you reduce the risk in the last 15 minutes of a game where the disparity of “fresh legs” over fatigued players is at its greatest and only tactical substitutions in the first 6o minutes of playing time. Any substitutes after that for injury only, which would include a tactically substituted front row player coming back for HIA and blood.
To stop the injury replacement being completely fresh they could spend the time from 60 minutes onwards on an exercise bike at a minimum setting to ensure that they have a level of fatigue themselves as well as always being warmed up so less chance of injury to themselves.
 

Marc Wakeham


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I don't think anyone is saying it s not an issue. The question is whether trying to turn the tide back is the solution.
 

KoolFork

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There is also this study, also not a mickey mouse piece of research

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-0-387-72577-2_4/

In summary, it shows that fatigue and tiredness increases the likelihood of a player sustaining an injury.

Unfortunately you can only access the first two pages of each chapter for free. There looks like an interesting section on concussion too.

Head injuries could be an existential threat to rugby. Even with replacements, the physical bulk of players will mean the accumulation of collisions is likely to be dangerous.

Doing nothing is unlikely to be an option. What options are there? Lighter players seems the best option to me. And, perhaps some of the other fatigue issues may melt away at the same time. Over time the number of scrums per game has significantly reduced*, so what exactly is going on in the front row?

* Data from analysis by Corris Thomas, former international referee who was head of the International Rugby Board's game analysis unit. "In internationals between 1971/3, the average match generated 101 set pieces, 63 lineouts and 38 scrums, and there were 31 rucks/mauls. In the 2000 Six Nations, the set-piece number had dropped to 58 (31 lineouts, 27 scrums), and the rucks/mauls totalled 116. In 2012, lineouts and scrums were down to 37 (23 lineouts, 14 scrums, only eight of which saw the ball used) and rucks/mauls had risen to 181."
 
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