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World Rugby should reduce the number of players on the bench to just five | KEITH WOOD

World Rugby need to reduce the number of substitutes to a maximum of five in order to avoid South Africa doing what they did on Friday night against New Zealand.

World Rugby need to reduce the number of substitutes to a maximum of five in order to avoid South Africa doing what they did on Friday night against New Zealand, according to Keith Wood and Matt Williams.

South Africa romped home to the biggest ever winning margin over the All Blacks in Twickenham on Friday night, in their respective final World Cup warm-up games before France 2023.

However, in spite of the dominant performance, it was the Springboks' bench that caused the most headlines following the 35-7 victory.

While South Africa had originally named Willie le Roux on the bench as part of their favoured 6-2 split, the fullback was withdrawn shortly before kick-off, and replaced with loose forward Kwagga Smith.

This meant that the World Champions entered the game against their oldest and biggest rivals with the risk of a 7-1 bench.

Winning 21-0 at the time, head coach Jacques Nienaber decided to replace his entire pack, with the exception of Pieter-Steph du Toit, and so, the London ground trembled beneath the weight of seven massive forwards rolling off the bench in the 46th minute.

The All Blacks, already a man down in the pack as Scott Barrett was red carded in the first half for a second yellow card offence, could not counter the Springboks' power, and succumbed to a 35-7 defeat, their largest ever margin of defeat.

South Africa 'abused' the bench

Former Scotland and Leinster head coach Matt Williams could not stand the 'abuse' of the bench that South Africa employed against their old foe.

"It does concern you, especially when you look at the way the South Africans are just abusing the bench at the moment," Williams said on Monday Night Rugby.

"The bench came in originally for safety reasons, so that people didn't come on in positions they weren't trained for, so we didn't have injuries.

"They take seven forwards off the bench. Really?! Seriously!? World Rugby has got to act on this! The way you fix it is to say, 'you just have three recognised backs on your bench'.

"That stops it. But right now, South Africa just change the whole pack. If they do that and we're not up to scratch in some players, they will be found out. South Africa's tactics are obvious now, and we have to be ready for it."

Reduce the number of subs to five

Speaking on Wednesday Night Rugby, former Ireland and Munster captain Keith Wood agreed that World Champions' use of the bench against should not be allowed in future.

While Wood stopped short of using Williams' strong words, he did agree that something needs to be done to reduce the impact of the bench on the modern game, so teams like South Africa don't get a perceived unfair advantage.

However, since his first thoughts on the subject in 2003, he has softened his views about the bench.

"I did an interview 20 years ago with The Guardian and they were asking, 'what things would you like to change in the sport?'," Wood said.

"I said I don't like the idea of getting on top of the opposition having played 60 minutes and then they change the whole front row.

"I grew up in the time when you didn't go off, or you only went off for an injury. I sat on the bench for Ireland and didn't go on for 10 or 12 caps because there was no injury.

"That's what I grew up in, it's what I was used to. So, 20 years ago, I'd have said, 'yeah, I don't want to have any of those go on at all!'"

While he no longer believes the bench should be used just to replace injured players, Wood feels that the current use of substitutes, particularly by South Africa on Friday night, flies in the face of what rugby used to be.

"Now, if you ask me, I would like there to be an awful lot less [substitutions]," Wood said. "I'd like there to be three front rowers, for health and safety reasons. I'd like to have a utility forward and a utility back. I think that would cover it.

"I don't know that any of those things would happen, because none of the coaches would want that to happen. But, it tends to bring the game closer to a level of equity where it isn't down to the full extent of your squad and how many players you actually have there or not there.

"We know for the smaller countries, it's much harder to get eight impact subs. So, I'm just not a fan of it."

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