IB approves tactical substitutions

Rugby can clean up its act and revolutionise its tactics following a landmark decision yesterday by the International Board to allow tactical substitutions at international and senior club level in northern and southern hemisphere rugby.

It means that from 4 November coaches will be able to use all six replacements for injury - instead of the present four - or field five of them as strategic subs, although in the latter case two of them must be front-row operators. This will eradicate the blatant practice of feigning injury to enable a substitutions to be made.

The first example of this was in 1992 when the France lock Christian Mougeot trotted off against Wales, visibly untroubled but apparently with a calf injury, to allow the more adept line-out man, Olivier Roumat, to take the field in Cardiff.

The IB's chairman, Vernon Pugh, acknowledged the abuse that has been going on and said: "It makes the game more honest, in that it addresses concerns about players feigning injuries." The Lions manager, Fran Cotton, agreed: "During the summer series of Test matches involving the southern hemisphere countries, there was blatant flouting of the law that allows a player to be replaced only for injuries."

It was not all sweetness and light for the IB after they were called on by the Irish Rugby Football Union and Canada's governing body to assess their claims that British clubs are breaking IB regulations concerning player availability. The Irish are questioning the actions of English clubs, among them London Irish, while the Canadians have a beef with a Welsh club, believed to be Bridgend, who have three Canucks on their books.

London Irish, who are involved in the European Conference, the secondary tournament, are refusing to release players for Irish provinces who are taking part in the European Cup. Certain of the Exiles' players are defying their club but the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union have been given 21 days by the IB in which to respond.

One dispute looks to have been settled with 36 Scotland players signing a three-year full-time contract with the Scottish Rugby Union. Scott Hastings, Ken Logan and Duncan Hodge are among a small list of top players refusing to sign. The deal includes match fees of pounds 2,500.

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