If teams have a lower tackle completion rate, it would create more space and reduce the risk of concussion, says Paul Williams.
Opinion: Rugby must weaken defenses
Everyone needs a little space from time to time. As a father of two children under 13 and working three jobs, this is a situation I know. But rugby’s (especially rugby concussions) need for space is far more pressing than a middle-aged man’s need to just hit the tennis club for an hour.
Concussion in rugby is no longer a niche topic that makes the headlines once a season. Concussions are now part of the social media timeline and the list of players affected is getting alarmingly high.
It’s no longer freak accidents like a prop having a broken neck, not that those incidents are any lesser. These are players with more than 50 caps for their country; These are family names.
That a large number of players, after the amateur field, now have very serious brain damage after their career is no longer a matter of debate (if you think it’s not real or “part of the game », this chronicle helps you). ). plate file underground). But recognizing the problem is, of course, only 10% of the problem. Now the game needs to fix it. And it seems like tackle height and player size are just two parts of a much larger solution.
Before going into the possible solutions, it must be made clear that the author of this column is not a doctor, a rugby coach or a player who made more than ten tackles per season, even in a good year. But you don’t necessarily have to be a sports professional to see how much everything has changed in the past 20 years.
The game is now totally different from the game I grew up watching and playing. It’s like the Tour de France. The TdF was originally designed with the winner being the “only” person to cross the finish line. In its modern form, cyclists still use bikes and roads, but the sport is unrecognizable.
The same can be said for rugby. We always use a ball and we play with 15 players, but that’s not how the game was designed. The elusiveness of sport is gone. It’s not even a contact sport; it’s a collision sport. You could almost call it a crash sport.
When talking about how the game has changed, most conversations revolve around player size and speed. These are valid points. Centers and forwards now have the height and weight of third-tier amateur forwards, even the locks. Second rows are now the size of something out of a Victorian freak show, and fixtures are now measured by the square foot.
But that’s not the most obvious difference when looking at images from the 70s and 80s. The most obvious difference is space. There were acres. If you watch a club match, or even a test match, from the 1980s, you could graze 200 heads of sheep on channels 12 and 13.
The defenses back then were so disorganized that it almost seems insulting to turn it down, especially when some of your heroes played in that era. But it’s no insult to say that completions were much lower at that time; is a positive
The problem with modern defenses isn’t just that everyone looks like something out of a weird genetic program, but there are usually 12 of them in the front line, standing tall, connected like a DNA sequence. There is no way to get them down in many cases, only through them.
So how do you solve the space problem? Obviously, this will not be the result of a single change, but of several. It is very difficult to tell the weight of rugby players without some strange Orwellian practices. What you can do is make it harder to play at that weight.
The first solution is to stop all contact in training. This would not only reduce the risk of concussion during the week, but also reduce the effectiveness of defensive systems and increase the need for fitness, not size. Rugby must return to 70% completion, not 90%. Anything above 85% is bad for the player’s health and bad for the sport as a spectacle.
The other solution is to limit substitutions. Teams must have a full set of frontline attackers and two more. That means more tired players on the pitch, which means more space. It will also force coaches to choose players with a wider variety of abilities and skills and could lead to hybrid players becoming a real feature of rugby.
We often hear Eddie Jones talk about players who can play back and forward; it will succeed. Suddenly, you can no longer just choose a monster in second or number 8 on the bench, because they may have to step in at 12th.
Rugby could also consider limiting the number of players it can defend in the first line of defence. When discussing this option you usually hear the rugby village elders ringing church bells and lighting bonfires as this seems like a step towards rugby league.
However, rugby union has always limited the number of players allowed to occupy certain positions on the pitch. Only eight are allowed in a scrum, and the roster numbers are scrutinized more aggressively than my recent power bill, which was above the top-14 salary cap.
Allowing just ten players in the immediate defensive line and five at the back would create an amount of space in midfield that rugby hasn’t seen in decades and could also call the kick a loss of possession account. given the depth of kick defense. .
The causes of the increase in concussions are as varied as the possible solutions. But one thing is undeniable: solutions are needed immediately.
Download the digital edition of Rugby World directly to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to receive the magazine at home.
Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.