Highlights on Off The Ball

10:00 AM-01:00 PM

Highlights on Off The Ball


'This is an abuse of a safety law!' | Matt Williams on Ireland’s first 6-2 split | WEDNESDAY NIGHT RUGBY

The 6-2 split is an 'abuse of a safety law' and should be outlawed by World Rugby, according to former Leinster coach Matt Williams.

The 6-2 split is an 'abuse of a safety law' and should be outlawed by World Rugby, according to former Leinster and Scotland coach Matt Williams.

For the first time in his tenure, Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has named a 6-2 split on the bench for his side's opening Guinness Six Nations clash with France on Friday.

This follows Fabien Galthie naming a similar bench split for Friday's clash, with six forwards on the bench and only two backline reserves.

With the first two teams announced for the Six Nations both using the controversial split, criticisms of the forward-dominated approach harken back to criticisms of South Africa's 6-2 and later 7-1 split in last year's World Cup.

For Matt Williams, the over-use of forwards on the bench is dangerous, and will cause more injuries.

'This is an abuse of a safety law!'

Speaking on Wednesday Night Rugby, Williams made his thoughts on the split clear.

"Let me be really clear, this is a tactic that is absolutely legal, and is a very smart tactic," Williams said. "What everyone is forgetting, and I'm old enough to know, I lived through guys becoming quadriplegics.

"We have a bench in rugby because of the way the quadriplegia and serious injuries hit the game through the '80s and '90s. They put a bench there to stop that, so that people could be substituted in positions where they were trained and it was safe.

"Now, this is an abuse of a safety law! There's just no two ways about it. There's no getting around it. It is."

6-2 splits to increase injuries

South Africa won their fourth World Cup leaning heavily on the strength of their forwards ion 2023. From a 6-2 to a 7-1 split throughout the majority of the tournament in France, the Springboks made use of their bench in a much more high profile manner than any of the other challengers.

Williams believes the naming of a 6-2 split on both the Irish and French team sheets is a response to the World Champions, but will be a dangerous advancement for the game.

"The current coaches are saying, 'well, look, everyone is doing it, why shouldn't we?' and that's correct," Williams said. "Andy Farrell and Fabien Galthie are doing it, and the Springboks are more than entitled to do a 7-1, they are.

"But, if this is done at the lower levels of the game, we will get injuries again. We will start seeing guys and girls getting badly hurt at scrum time.

"If you are down in a lower division and the other team bring on a new pack, and you're a young tighthead, or an old tighthead, or you're not good enough, it only takes a few seconds.

"I saw it. I was at a game, my club, we had a guy that became a quadriplegic. I've seen it with my own eyes, I never want to see it again!

"There is no way ever, on God's green earth, I am going to change from that. That is the historical facts about why we have a bench.

"It appalls me that World Rugby have not acted to change that by simply saying that three of the players on your bench have to be specialised backs. It's all they've got to do.

"Now, the already say three of your bench must cover hooker, tighthead and loosehead, so they're already doing that. If they did that, this whole problem will go away.

"It is really wrong of World Rugby to not do it!"

While he believes World Rugby are aware of the dangers to the game, Williams feels some countries are putting safety to one side in favour of a perceived advantage.

"I suspect that safety is being put very much last because some countries won't agree to it because they see it as an advantage for their national team," Williams said. "That's a really, really sad state of affairs."

Team of Us. Everyone In.

Vodafone. The main sponsor of the Irish Rugby Team.

Download the brand new OffTheBall App in the Play Store & App Store right now! We've got you covered!

Subscribe to OffTheBall's YouTube channel for more videos, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for the latest sporting news and content.