Legendary British and Irish Lions captain Willie John McBride has savagely attacked modern rugby, claiming that it has become an unedifying mix of union, league and American football that is being ruined by an injury crisis and the dominance of money. Rugby enthusiasts can book British lions 2021 tickets on our website on exclusively discounted prices.
Captain of the famous 1974 Lions that conquered South Africa, McBride went international 17 times for tourists on five separate tours, while also winning 63 matches for Ireland before retiring in 1975.
Now in his 80s, he has not struck out in the foreword to Saving Rugby Union, the newly published book written by Ross Reyburn and published by Y Lolfa that tackles the myriad of issues that affect the best development of professional rugby.
In addition to facing the lack of space and high injury rate in rugby today, Lions King McBride also lamented the collapse mechanics, crooked feeding at scrum time, the excessive prevalence of replacements and the ease with which players can change nationality.
Willie John McBride
McBride wrote: Rugby today is nothing like the game I played. It is a mix of rugby union and rugby league, which is heavily influenced by rugby union, with players lined up on the field against each other, and American football, with obstruction and blocking.
In the modern game, you can theoretically hold the ball for 40 minutes with endless phases. In the amateur era, once you got down on the ground, you had to drop the ball and escape. The players could then roll over the ball.
Today when the guys go to the ground, they are still holding on to the ball and putting it back with their hands. It allows the sides to hold the ball during phase after phase, as it is very difficult for defenders to catch the ball at half-time. It is absolutely ridiculous.
There were never any serious injuries in the rucks because you really had to drop the ball and get away to avoid getting the rake back. If he clings to the ball, he will be penalized.
Today there are more and more pile-ups with knees and elbows hitting other players, causing injuries. Referees explode for a scrum when the ball is buried in a pile of bodies. This just wouldn’t happen in a ruck situation when playing.
On the breakdown, I just don’t understand why people are tackling players who don’t have the ball. It is not a sport, they are just attacking people to get them out. Surely the law says that you cannot tackle a player who does not have the ball.
“Any game has to do with space. The modern game is about closing the gap with players lined up on the field due to the rugby phase. The only thing that surprises me is why they changed our game.”
British and Irish Lions legend McBride
Addressing the rising injury rate, Lions legend McBride added: “There is an injury crisis in rugby. You watch all the international matches that are played. How many do you see that are injury-free? I think every player should be playing 80 minutes unless he has to leave the field injured. I played for 14 years and never left the field in my life.”
I’ve seen young boys from academies who have been told, ‘You’re too light. You have to put two stones to be successful. The children are growing up. They eat all these food supplements that I call drugs and doing all these weights. Your bones cannot support what your muscles demand. This is bad. The only thing they taught me when I was little was to be flexible. They are tied to the muscles and are more prone to injury.
It is terrible to see all these people running and on the field in an international match. Recently, a player was signed with one minute to go, there could be no difference in the result. I once asked my old adversary Colin Meads how you would feel if they took you with 20 minutes to go. I can’t repeat what he said, but it was pretty much “you can fill the game”.
I also find it unsettling how easily players can change their national allegiance. It devalues international rugby. When Wales defeated Ireland 25-7 in the 2019 Six Nations, all Welsh points were scored by two New Zealanders, Gareth Anscombe and Hadleigh Parkes. That cannot be correct.
If you play for Ireland, you should have Irish blood running through your veins. The residential rating should be ten years and that would leave players playing for a country when they don’t have an immediate family connection. The only thing the Irish Rugby Union got right is that they own the players. England was stupid, as the RFU allowed the Premiership clubs to take control of the players. That is over.
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