Rugby’s problem in the professional era – big strong men

October 21st, 2007

I mentioned in the previous blog that rugby was running into problems of fairness. The players are just getting too big.

Much was made in the media prior to the world cup about the fact that the entire Scottish team had changed their body shapes through heavy gym work over the last few months, yet Chris Paterson was being criticised during the tournament as being too small and light for a winger, though he would dwarf many forwards from the relatively recent past. It’s becoming hard for smaller men to compete, no matter how talented. Would such luminaries as Gerald Davies or Barry John get a game these days? Would the subtle skills of Mike Gibson be muscled out of contention? Heaven knows what they’d think of the small but elusive Jim Renwick and David Johnston, and I fear Andy Irvine would be considered far too light to be a full-back.

As I write this South Africa have just beaten England in a final that had no tries. Two incredibly big strong teams pounded away at each other and neither could come up with the creative spark that would have set the game alight. Much of the attractive rugby in the tournament – and there wasn’t very much of it by all accounts – was by the minor teams such as Fiji or Japan, but many teams seemed to either have ineffective back divisions lacking real pace and invention or were muscled out of it by heavy packs.

This seems to have been the way the game has been moving since it went professional but if it continues along these lines then it may find itself with fewer spectators. It’s becoming a thud and blunder game rather than the glorious running sidestepping spectacle that I grew up watching. Something needs to be done to make it easier for the lighter, quicker players to exist in the same arena as the 18 stone plus giants. The players who can beat a man by invention and sleight of hand rather than the crash-ball merchants who bulldoze their way forward.

Let’s hope for a few tries in the Six Nations, and some attractive running rugby. If we don’t get them then I fear the game is in trouble.

Entry Filed under: sport

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