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.

Sam Warburton v Samoa, 2009

A decade ago: Warburton looks to offload during his first Test start on home soil, v Samoa in 2009 (Getty)

1. Contracts

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.

Wales rugby squad training in Toyota

Match ready: Wales training in Toyota, part of a heavy workload for the modern pro player (AFP/Getty)

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.

3. Substitutes

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.

Tadhg Beirne replaces Iain Henderson, 2019

On and off: Tadhg Beirne replaces Iain Henderson during one of Ireland’s RWC warm-ups (Sportsfile)

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.

Taulupe Faletau

Sheer class: this player wins plaudits from Sam Warburton in his book – but who is he? (CameraSport)

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Terms and conditions

The competition closes at 11.59pm on Tuesday 5 November 2019.

Six winners will be selected at random, each winning a copy of the book ‘Open Side’ by Sam Warburton.

Normal TI Media Limited competition rules apply. Competition details form part of these terms and conditions. Entry is open to residents of the UK, Channel Islands and Republic of Ireland except employees (and their families) of TI Media Limited, its printers and agents, the suppliers of the prizes and any other companies associated with the competitions. The winners must be aged 18 or over. Proof of identity and age may be required. Use of a false name or address will result in disqualification. All entries must be made directly by the person entering the competition. Entries made online using methods generated by a script, macro or the use of automated devices will be void. The prizes are as stated, are not transferable to another individual and no cash or other alternatives will be offered. Prizes are subject to availability and the prize suppliers’ terms and conditions. The promoters reserve the right to amend or alter the terms of competitions and reject entries from entrants not entering into the spirit of the competition. The winner agrees to the use of his or her name, photograph and disclosure of county of residence and will co-operate with any other reasonable requests by TI Media Limited relating to any post-winning publicity. The winners will be chosen from all correct entries received by the closing date stated within the promotional material. Winners will be confirmed in writing. Reasonable efforts will be made to contact a winner. Failure to respond and/or provide an address for delivery, or failure to meet the eligibility requirements may result in forfeiture of the prize. If they cannot be contacted, or are unable to comply with these terms and conditions, the Promoter reserves the right to offer the prize to the next eligible entrant drawn at random. Where applicable, the decision of the judges is final based on the criteria set out in the promotion and no correspondence will be entered into over this decision. Competitions may be modified or withdrawn at any time. The Service Provider and contact details are specified within the promotional material. When you enter this competition you are consenting to be added to the regular MBR newsletters and that TI Media Limited and its partners may contact you about relevant products or services and research via email. You can opt out at any time via the unsubscribe messages in the emails you are sent.