Reports from England suggest that World Rugby is seriously considering reducing the number of permitted substitutes per match.
The thinking behind the move – which World Rugby’s chief medical officer Dr Eanna Falvey revealed to the Telegraph – is that players would need to shed their weight in order to last the full 80 minutes.
‘Our first step with this is to know whether reducing substitutions makes a big difference to the injury rate and pace of the game, and if it does to start looking at the practical solutions to that problem,’ Falvey said.
‘Bigger players may need to play for 80 minutes rather than 55, which means a player can’t necessarily be 10kg heavier because he won’t be able to get around for the final 20 minutes.
‘The downside is that may promote more injuries in those players while they are adapting and getting up to speed. But the upside would be that you have lighter players who are more mobile, and able to get around more. The argument would be that if you have players who are not quite as explosive, you might see a cut down in the number of injuries.’
If World Rugby keeps the current policy of teams needed two prop replacements on the bench, the most likely outcome could be a four-two split between forwards and backs, with one player covering both lock and flank.
‘It limits your options, basically,’ Falvey added. ‘The real issue is whether or not you are prepared to cut down on replacements and having to play without specialist position players like a nine or a 10, because you might need to have a utility back.’
If the move is approved it could bring an end to the six-two split between forwards and backs among the replacements. This tactic was effectively used by Rassie Erasmus during the Springboks’ successful World Cup campaign, with the ‘Bomb Squad’ proving key during the tournament.
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