It's a regular sight – players off the pitch hugging their mates on it after a try is scored. But some feel it's all getting out of hand. Read this debate from our March 2021 issue

Face-off: Should we allow substitutes to celebrate in the in-goal area?

Former England fly-half, analyst and journalist

The dead-ball area is part of the playing field. You wouldn’t know it to see replacements doing their constant warm-up drills in there. Not just when the possession is in the other 22 but with the game going on within a quick sprint of the try-line.

Nobody wants a pulled hamstring but someone has to enforce the replacement problem. The field belongs to 30 players and the referee. Not 46. The merge of one and all occurs when a try is scored. As players slide in pursuit of a chip through, replacements are inches the other side of the field, urging them on.

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It was a while ago, in the Guinness Pro14. Don’t ask me the match or who was referee, but I think it was in Ireland. A player touched down, blades of grass from the dead-ball line. I was commentating. I was pretty sure the try had been scored, based on my feel for the game.

But the try wasn’t awarded. There was no defining TV angle available because the substitutes had celebrated in-field, before the score. All of Sky’s angles amounted to a mob of subs hugging their man, the touchdown lost in a forest of thick legs. Whoever the referee was on that distant day, God bless him! This was the moment ‘exuberance’ literally crossed the line.

The pressurising pack of replacements can be heedless of the game before their number is called. However, rugby union must remain a game of 30 players on the field, with 16 doing whatever it takes to be prepared – until their number comes up. The line must not be crossed.

Face-off: Should we allow substitutes to ceelbrate in the in-goal area?

Interference: a scuffle at Kingsholm after a Sale waterboy stopped Gloucester collecting the ball (Getty)

Glasgow-based freelance writer and podcaster

I view try-scoring pile-ons in the same manner that I view booing the kicker: I don’t much care for it, but I care even less for pearl-clutching and moaning about it.

There are frequent complaints about a lack of characters in the game, because they’ve been media-trained to death and taught to say nothing controversial. Yet once the players show any emotion – or ‘character’ if you must – they get jumped on for being uncouth.

They’ve just achieved the main aim of the game and their pals are right there. Of course they want to celebrate. It’s camaraderie, it’s passion.

Face-off: Should we allow substitutes to celebrate in the in-goal area?

Pure joy: Quins subs pile in to celebrate a Mike Brown try from a few years ago at Twickenham (Getty)

Are those complaining about it trying to tell us they haven’t high-fived or hugged their friends at the same time, or are they so stoic that they deem a quick handshake and a polite round of applause sufficient? With defences as staunch and solid as they are now, a try is something that should be celebrated.

As a caveat to the above, should the celebrating team engulf an opponent who was trying to stop the scorer and engage in goading then that’s not really cool, but we see similar levels of goading at any number of smaller victories on the park. I’d put good money on those who feel so passionately about it as being nonplussed when it’s their team engaging in such frippery.

Of all the things to get wound up about in the game, celebrating in this fashion should be so far down the list that it is an irrelevance.

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This debate first appeared in the March 2021 issue of Rugby World.