"It's a concern" - Donncha O'Callaghan urges move away from rugby's increasing physicality
Munster and Ireland legend joined Joe and Keith Wood on Wednesday Night Rugby21:00 Wednesday 18 October 2017, 21:00 18 Oct 2017
These days, Munster and Ireland legend Donncha O'Callaghan is still going strong in the English Premiership with Worcester Warriors.
That league has been experiencing something of an injury crisis for the clubs in the division, making headlines.
For example, Harlequins have 25 of their 56 man first team and academy squad unavailable due to injury, and they aren't the only club dealing with mounting absentee lists.
Increased physicality appears to be an issue with stats showing changes to the game having an impact in that regard.
O'Callaghan joined Joe and ex-Ireland captain Keith Wood on Wednesday Night Rugby and he has also noticed a change this season.
"Maybe it's me being older within the game that I think maybe I'm getting old, so this hurts more but I'll be honest with you, guys are really conditioned now, they're so much bigger. Guys are so much bigger. My team-mates, we've 147 KG props with really low body fat. They're just massive, massive men," he said of the increasing size of players, before touching on the toll the increased physicality seems to be having in regards to injury risk.
Exeter Chiefs' Don Armand is tackled by Worcester Warriors' Niall Annett and Donncha O'Callaghan during the Aviva Premiership match at the Sixways Stadium, Worcester. David Davies/PA Archive/PA Images
"This week, we put out 23 guys against Brive and 17 of them had to report to injury clinic on Sunday and weren't fit to train on Monday morning. Out of our 23 guys, 17 of them needed some form of treatment or were nursing an injury after a game."
He added that every club in the Premiership is in the same position in terms of dealing with large numbers of injuries.
The physical consequences of course are significant and he feels "the players' unions need to step up and control the contact at training".
"I just think the contact level at training is really high, really severe in tight drills that maybe you could have done for a few minutes a few years ago and got away with it when guys were smaller but when you've big strong men now, it's getting very, very hard," he said.
"It's a concern, it really is and I'll be honest, it's gone to the point where nearly every game you come off and you're OK, you're thankful."
And in terms of what can be looked at, the second row feels that a move back to the way rugby was pre-modern era is the way to go.
"It's rugby in general that we need to have a look and come away from this physicality type of game and get back to a skill-set game," he said, adding that "fewer training sessions" is another option.
Keith agreed that rugby is "at a crossroads" but that the sport has shown an ability to make changes when issues need to be addressed.
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