Win the new book by Sam Warburton
When Warren Gatland handed Sam Warburton the Wales captaincy in 2011, he saw him in the same mould as Richie McCaw. The All Black flanker had been given the armband as a young man and grown in stature to become a world great, and Warburton was to follow a similar path, leading Wales and the Lions with distinction on a combined 53 occasions.
A relentless injury toll led Warburton to retire last year, leaving some of his ambitions unfulfilled. His new book, Open Side, charts his career and you can read a review of it here.
Further down the page, you can try to win a copy in our competition but first here’s a taster of the book, taken from one of the concluding chapters: four actions that Warburton would take if he was World Rugby supremo with carte blanche to do as he pleased.
In order to guard game time, centrally contract all regular international players. The international game is rugby’s showpiece and provides the bulk of the sport’s revenue. This isn’t football, where at least the more successful clubs have followings as large and rabid as national teams. The Rugby World Cup is a lot nearer football’s World Cup than the Heineken Cup is to the Champions League. In any club-country debate, country has to come first.
2. Time limits
A limit of 25 games per player per season. I know it’s a vicious circle with the need for enough games to pay wages and the like, but there has to be a limit somewhere. There would have to be discussion around this, of course. What constitutes a ‘game’ in this context? A minimum period of time on the pitch? Being part of the starting XV or the match-day 23? Given that 25 games of 80 minutes equals exactly 2,000 minutes, perhaps this could be set as the limit instead, obliging teams to work out how best to use up these minutes.
Full-contact training should be limited to ten minutes a week. This would be just in the professional game (not at junior, amateur or semi-pro levels where the hits aren’t as big), and wouldn’t include semi-contact, such as mauling practice or work with pads and tackle bags: just full-on, bone-on-bone contact work.
Allowing players to recover between matches in this regard is paramount. I didn’t like contact in training, not because I didn’t like tackling – I loved tackling – but because I wanted to protect myself so I could be as physical as possible on a weekend.
Related content: Rest and recovery tips to survive a rugby season
There should be a minimum of 12 weeks between the last game of a season and taking full contact again, and within that a minimum period of no organised training whatsoever. Ideally this would be six weeks totally off, followed by six weeks of no-contact training, but a three-stage approach (five weeks off, five weeks pre-season and two weeks semi-contact) may be more achievable given the current calendar.
Reduce the number of subs allowed. At the moment, more than half the team can be replaced, which means that some players – especially tight-five forwards – can bulk up to the max in the knowledge that they’ll only have to play around 50 minutes rather than 80. Add to this the mismatch in energy when fresh blokes who’ve just come on are clattering into those who’ve been playing the whole match, and the potential for injury is doubly clear.
In one area, the problem perpetuates itself: for safety reasons you need a full complement of front-row subs, but these guys are of course the biggest units who can cause the most damage. But beyond that, perhaps have one more forward sub and two backs, making a total of six rather than eight. It would be nice to go back to the old amateur ethos of only bringing on a sub for injury, but let’s be honest, in the professional game that’s never going to happen.
4. Protection of the jackler
Referees need to start enforcing Law 15.7, which states that “a player must bind onto a team-mate or an opposition player. The bind must precede or be simultaneous with contact”. This would reduce the momentum of the clear-out players and therefore their ability to seriously injure the jackler.
Open Side by Sam Warburton is published in hardback by HarperCollins, RRP £20, and you can buy it here.
We have six copies to give away in a competition. For a chance to win one, just answer the question below and fill in your details. The competition closes on Tuesday 5 November.
Terms and conditions
Six winners will be selected at random, each winning a copy of the book ‘Open Side’ by Sam Warburton.
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