Rugby greats advocate for major change in rugby laws

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People like Sir Ian McGeechan, Barry John, Willie John McBride and Sir Gareth Edwards head a group asking for substitutions to be scrapped as a way of improving player safety.

The Rugby Paper published the letter in its latest edition.

It reads: "For fear of losing their livelihood, current players dare not speak out, but those liberated by recent retirement agree. Dylan Hartley, the former England captain, described his generation as 'crash dummies'. 

"It would be grossly negligent to allow the status quo to condition. Rugby Union was conceived as a 15-a-side game for 30 players. With the current eight substitutes per side, many of whom are tactical 'impact players' or 'finishers', this can and often does stretch to 45.

"More than half a team can be changed and some players are not expected to last 80 minutes so train accordingly, prioritising power over aerobic capacity. This shapes the entire game leading to more collisions and in the latter stages numerous fresh 'giants' crashing into tiring opponents.

"The simple change we advocate is to allow eight subs on the bench if you must but limit the number that can be used to four, and then only in the case of injury. This will make the game safer, a view supported by leading players and eminent members of the medical profession.



"Sadly, more than 18 months later World Rugby has done nothing – yet again it stands accused of all words and no action.

Former Lion and Wales flanker John Taylor agreed with the comments in the letter. He said, "One of the simple things I hugely believe is that by enabling all these replacements at any stage of the game you have literally changed the shape of the sport. "Players are bigger and stronger because they don't have to play the whole 80 minutes.

"I am in favour of going back to the days when replacements were only for injuries. At first you could not replace any of your 15 players if one got injured...which was ridiculous.

"But replacements for injuries worked very well. Now you get these giants sitting on the bench like the South Africa prop who is 20 stone [Frans Malherbe] and he comes on for half an hour. So, just when you think you have won your battle against your opposite number you have a new monster facing you!" Taylor said the situation had taken gamesmanship to another degree.


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