British and Irish Lions greats ask for law change on substitutes to prevent death on field

Last update on. From the section Rugby UnionThis month, the British and Irish Lions were beaten by South Africa in a three-Test series.Five greats of the British and Irish Lions have requested World Rugby to amend its laws regarding substitutions because they fear that a player might die on the field if this happens.Sir Ian McGeechan, the Lions' four-time head coach, has asked that substitutions be limited to injuries and not tactically.Willie John McBride and Sir Gareth Edwards signed as well as Barry John, John Taylor, and Barry John.They claimed that the game had become "unnecessarily risky".Sir Bill Beaumont was also addressed in a letter signed by Professor John Fairclough, a consultant surgeon. The letter stated that current players were afraid to speak out for fear of losing their livelihoods.Two-time Lions captain Sam Warburton said in 2019 that someone would "die during a game infront of TV cameras", if nothing was done.The letter stated that it would be grossly negligent for the status quo to continue."Rugby union was originally conceived as a 15-aside game for 30 players. This can easily reach 46 players with the eight current substitutes per side. Many of them are tactical 'impact' or 'finishers'.In 1968, rugby allowed for the first time substitutions for injuries. Tactical replacements were introduced in 1996 after professional rugby was established. However, initially only three of these tactical substitutes were available.World Rugby published a six-point plan for player welfare in July. A spokesperson for the governing body responded to an open letter and said that it welcomes "considered views that inform or support the positive momentum created by" that strategy.The letter stated that players were now prioritizing "power over aerobic capability" as they weren't expected to play for all 80 minutes.The letter stated that this "shaped the whole game, leading to more collisions" and in the later stages many new 'giants crashing into tired opponents.""We advocate that you allow eight substitutes on the bench, but limit them to four if necessary. Only in case of injury should they be allowed to use the bench.""This will make it safer," says a leading player and an eminent member of the medical profession."We are certain that Sir Bill Beaumont, World Rugby chairman, agrees with our position. He expressed concern that rugby had become a sport for large people in January 2020 and supported a trial law that would allow players to be replaced only if they were injured."Sadly, 18 months later World Rugby has done absolutely nothing. Yet again it is accused of every word and no action."So, no more empty phrases, we call on Sir Bill to take immediate action in the hope that Sam Warburton’s words don't become prophetic."A spokesperson for World Rugby stated that they are following the most recent science, research, and data in order to make the sport safe and accessible for everyone - at all levels and for women and men.According to the organisation, a "comprehensive review of the effect of substitutes in elite games" is currently being done by the University of Bath. This will inform future approaches to injury prevention.This review examines "whether injuries are more common later in matches, whether substitutes or starters are more likely, which positions have the greatest exposure, and what the nature of injuries."The spokesperson said that "We must be aware that elite and community games do not have the same injury risk, and that substitutions are crucial to make the sport accessible at this level.""We are always open to anyone with valuable contributions to this important and constantly evolving debate."World Rugby is currently being sued by former players for brain damage.