After the misery of that 15-15 draw in a poorly named ‘Series Decider’ set in on Saturday night, one thing bugged me even more. It’s an institutionalized facet of Rugby that (on a professional level) I have never understood… and it could easily have cost the All Blacks the game and Lions series.
I am talking about the ‘seemingly mandatory’ substitutions in rugby. This bullshit of clearing the bench towards the end of a game.
Look, I get it in amateur grassroots rugby! It’s horse-shit if you show up on a Saturday after training a couple of times during the week and don’t get on the field. You’re not getting paid. Most probably none of your team mates are getting paid. Yes, everyone wants to win. Yes, the best team should start the game. But some level of political correctness comes into it. Everybody deserves a run
But what about the pros?
I’m not the expert on rugby. But seeing as rugby heads love comparing the sport to football/soccer, I’m going to make a comparison.
If Messi isn’t hurt, he does not come out of the game. End of story!
Ok, regular league game against Celta Vigo, Barcelona leading 5-0.. Sure! They can pull him out and give him a rest..
But not in a Champions League game. Not with the scores locked heading towards extra time. Are you fucking kidding me? The best players play.
Back to Rugby
How has this grassroots mentality found it’s way into modern ‘professional’ rugby union? Forwards, I get it! When it comes to the big boppa’s its a slightly different story. Those rigs are superhuman and it’s unbelievable with the level of contact how they get around the field for 60-70 minutes.
But are you telling me that the modern half-back (scrum half), and first five (fly half) aren’t fit enough to play 80 minutes?
I would say most would agree that Aaron Smith and Beudy Barrett are New Zealand’s first-choice 9 & 10 combo. They are the best.
But what I saw on Saturday night nearly cost New Zealand the fucking series.
5 to 6 minutes on the clock. Game tied at 15-15 and hello hello! Here we go again..
Hansen and the ‘brains trust’ pull Aaron Smith (9), pull one of the wingers (can’t remember which), push Beudy Barrett (10) to fullback, push fullback Jordie Barrett (15) to wing and bring in the fresh legs of TJ Perenara (21) and Aaron Cruden (22)
In other words: The All Blacks completely reshuffled their backline in the most crucial 7 minutes rugby of the entire Lions tour of New Zealand
Some readers might be thinking… Yeah whatever NZ cleared the bench in the World Cup Final and it didn’t cost them the game.
The All Blacks were more than two converted tries ahead of the Aussies come the final minutes. Barring a monumental collapse, you back the reserves to bring it home! How epic for them!
But at 15-15 in a series decider? This is a bonehead move and frankly just some stupid rugby bullshit that doesn’t make sense in a professional sport.
Seconds after that French fuck coq’d up (nice play on words) the offside call and ordered a scrum; Did anyone see what happened next?
Fresh off the bench, TJ Perenana was on fucking holiday! While he and Aaron Cruden were trying to work out what play they were going to run.. the ball comes out of the scrum early and Lions reserve half-back Rhys Webb (21) grabs a turnover, goes on a little burst and creates an overlap only for Lions Number 8 Taulupe Faletau to drop it with numbers outside of him..
Had he caught that ball, fuck me that could have been upsetting.
So code-heads.. It’s lost on me. What (if any) is the advantage of doing this?
As far as I’m concerned ‘clearing the bench’ in a close game makes no sense and only maintains some bullshit amateur level subset of rugby that has no place in the professional game.
The only reason the reserve inside backs should get on the field in the dying minutes of Saturday’s game is if one of them is called Steven Donald.