Welsh great slams World Rugby for modern game 'monster'
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Former Wales captain Paul Thorburn has blasted leading Rugby Union officials for presiding over an excessively dangerous "monster" that is the modern game.
Thorburn believes World Rugby, the sport's global governing body, must scrap rules allowing up to eight players in the XV-a-side-code to be substituted per match and the "ludicrously dangerous" practice of lifting in the line-out, which used to be banned.
The 37-times capped fullback, who played for Wales in the 1980s and 1990s, said wholesale changes were needed to avoid youngsters turning away from a sport that now puts too much emphasis on raw power rather than skill.
"Rugby used to be a game for people of all shapes and sizes, but increasingly that isn't the case," Thorburn told Monday's Western Mail.
"Now you have massive blokes bashing into massive blokes for 80 minutes with all the risks that involves.
"You really do wonder whether parents are going to want to encourage their children to take up the sport or indeed if the youngsters themselves will be attracted to it as much as they once were."
As for 'bench clearing', Thorburn said: "What justification is there for a side to change more than half its side during a match?
"Once, the fitness of a starting XV was often the difference in rugby. Wales in the 1970s, for instance, tended to cut loose late in games because opponents would tire and gaps would open up.
"Nowadays those gaps don't open up, because coaches have cleared their benches and sent on fresh players around the hour mark. It means the physicality of a game is maintained for the entire 80 minutes: no let-up, huge tackles until the final whistle.
"That in itself is dangerous because you have people coming on and playing against guys who may be tiring with all the increased risks that brings."
Thorburn added: "Nor can I see why line-out lifting is allowed. To have blokes being thrown 12 feet (3.65 metres) in the air is ludicrously dangerous."
Meanwhile, Thorburn said attacking flyhalves such as Wales greats Barry John and Phil Bennett would not be able to thrill crowds as they did in the 1970s if they were playing today.
"Phil Bennett and Barry John were great players who helped make rugby such an enjoyable sport to watch, but if they were playing today they wouldn't be able to do what they once did, for the simple reason that there is no space," he said.
"World Rugby has created a monster by either moving away from old laws or failing to properly police all the ones that are now in place."