Rugby Union: Mallett questions rules on substitutes

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The Independent Online
The South Africa rugby coach, Nick Mallett, has called for the International Rugby Board to consider changing the substitution laws.

Mallett wants the IRB to review the section which states that "substituted players may not re-enter the match, even to replace an injured player, except in the case of a player having a bleeding or open wound or for an injured front row player if no other suitably trained replacement is available."

"They allow you to replace a front row player and he can go back onto the field if there is an injury," Mallett said. "But I think the rule should be for any player."

The call comes after the Springboks' dramatic 24-23 Tri-nations victory over the All Blacks in Durban on Saturday, when South Africa's Krynauw Otto was substituted after he was raked by the New Zealand prop Carl Hoeft.

The wound to Otto's thigh required 12 stitches but, because it was a bleeding wound, the lock was allowed to return to the field of play. However, had Mallett wished, or been forced, to substitute his playmaking lock for any other reason, he would not have been able to return.

"Krynauw had to get that sewn up. There was blood. In retrospect it was quite lucky, because it allowed me to use him again as a replacement at the end," Mallett said. "If I had made the replacement of Krynauw after 30 minutes, I wouldn't have been able to bring him back onto the field."

Any change to allow more flexible substitutions by the IRB would bring union more into line with its rugby league cousin, where coaches are able to use players on the bench in a freer, more tactical role.

Mallet said he believes that Saturday's game demonstrated the need for changes, because it showed how substitutes could cause such a significant difference to the type of game and its outcome: "The last 15 minutes of that game was a great spectacle. I believe it was because our pack was rejuvenated by a couple of fresh legs.

"We were able to play and pick up the pace of that game just when they [New Zealand] were falling off the pace. And I think that made for a fantastic spectacle. But then if I make a decision like that 20 minutes into the second half against Australia, and say a guy does his ligaments and I've moved him to lock, I can't bring Krynauw or Mark Andrews back on.

"I think you should be allowed to put players back on. Spectators want to see a great 80-minute spectacle and I don't think it's a spectacle if you're playing 14 against 15 players."