There’s a fair bit of talk that the IRB want to introduce a 23-man squad to ensure that teams always have a fit complement of front-rowers. I’m not sure exactly how this is meant to work.
The idea is pretty simple: instead of seven subs on the bench, a team will have eight, with at least three of them being front rankers. This means you’re guaranteed to have cover for all three positions in the front row and, in theory, this should nullify the Stormers’ main attacking weapon this season – the uncontested scrum.
Now, the idea is that a team can still only call on a maximum of sevens subs during the course of the game, so if you do lose two props during the course of the game, that’s just tough tackie, you’ll need to go without one of your other replacements. What happens if you’ve already used up all 7 and a prop goes down? According to the description I’ve seen, you will be allowed to use your prop replacement anyway, leading to an effective 8 substitutions during a game. This is, of course, unfair. Hands up everyone who agrees that we’ll see this one exploited to the fullest – in fact, it would probably make more sense to just allow all 8 reserves to be used and get it over with.
Although this proposed change is a reasonable approach to take, I think it is essentially the wrong way to solve the problem. I would rather look at a system of fining a team who forces uncontested scrums – or worse, docking log points. You could put 8 props on the bench and Rassie Erasmus would still find a way to injure ALL of them sufficiently to ensure no contest at scrum time. Rather that than face up to the reality that his team has a serious issue in the front row – one that no amount if buying of has-been flyhalves, wingers and loose forwards is going to solve.Tweet