How rugby union became about much more than the first XV

England scrum
A tactical switch at scrum time played a key role Credit: AFP

One to fifteen were always the numbers that counted. Not today, and not in the words of Eddie Jones, who continues to change our rugby vocabulary. 

'Finishers' is his new term. In old money they are the substitutes, the bench, the sweet eaters. But as rugby has progressed, players who sit on the bench are no longer just pre-match pad carriers. Warren Gatland and John Olver, two great hookers who in modern times may have had 50 caps each, had to sit and watch Sean Fitzpatrick and Brian Moore for far longer than they would have liked. 

Those days are gone. Some teams like Saracens have rotated scrum-halves on the 50-minute mark, no matter the state of play, ensuring that two scrum-halves go through the season fit and well. Most teams throw on the props after 50 or 60 minutes for a fresh injection of leg power at scrum time, and no doubt for the preservation of the body, back and neck. Most...

To continue reading this Premium article

Register for free and access one Premium article per week

Enjoy unlimited access to Premium articles with a subscription

  • Subscriber-only events and experiences
  • Access Premium articles on our mobile app

30-day free trial

then only £2 per week

Unlock all Premium articles for 24 hours. Only £1.

Free £50 gift card when you subscribe
Enjoy a free £50 gift card* for one of your favourite brands when you take out an annual subscription
*Gift cards will be sent out by email within 21 days of the subscription start date. Available in the UK Only.