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Modern game has become much too physical to endure

By Niall Crozier

Ask Jack Kyle if he envies those currently playing in the World Cup and the look on his face provides the answer before he opens his mouth to speak.

"I really don't," is his frank reply. "I don't think the modern game would suit the likes of Cliff Morgan or me at all."

The physicality of the sport, the intensity of the impact, the size and bulk of the players have produced a very different form of rugby football. No longer do they talk of tackles, but of hits.

Jack Kyle regrets many of the things that have come to pass in his lifetime.

"So often today a back doesn't try to beat his man," says the man who took fly-half artistry to a new level.

"We used to try to beat our man on the inside or the outside. Now they just try to go through him."

As a retired doctor, the costs attributable to such tactics worry him greatly, as do the related statistics.

"It's a very physical game today and there are a lot of injuries. The IRFU Charitable Trust, for example, currently is looking after 34 players," he points out.

"I'm told that something like one in four professional rugby players won't finish their careers; they will have to retire because of injury.

"The size of the players today is a tremendous factor. I've often said that when we went off to New Zealand and Australia in 1950 with the Lions there wasn't one man in our team who weighed more than 15st 7lbs.

"Nowadays three-quarters are that weight.

"And their height, too, is remarkable. You see Jonathan Sexton on the pitch you think he's not very big. Then you look at your programme and you discover that he's 6ft 2in!

"The Welsh scrum-half on the day Ireland beat Wales in Cardiff to win the Grand Slam in 2009 (Mike Phillips) was over 16st.

"Rugby was a game which could accommodate different shapes and sizes. You'd the guy who maybe wasn't a great runner but he was a good man in the front row; the guy who was strong went to the back row; the fast guys were the threequarters; good hands and a good boot meant you'd probably make a half-back.

"So my hope is that it just doesn't become a totally physical game," he says.

Belfast Telegraph


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