Former Scotland head coach Matt Williams made headlines during the 2023 Rugby World Cup for his views on South Africa’s utilisation of a 6 -2 and later 7 – 1 bench.
At the time, Williams said of the tactic, “South Africa and England are like great tax accountants; they find every loophole and exploit it brilliantly. I admire the intellect, but that is not good for the global game.
“It is not good for the other sides in the game like France, New Zealand, and Ireland, who are trying to play a more positive, ball in hand, entertaining game. We are in the business of entertainment. Is it a 15-man game or an 8-man game? Right now, it has become so biased towards scrummaging and mauling. The game is totally out of balance.”
Speaking on the Irish sports show Off-The-Ball, Williams doubled down on his assessment of the bench split when asked about both Andy Farrell and Fabien Galthie selecting six forwards on the bench.
“Let me just be really clear, this is a tactic that is absolutely legal and is a very smart tactic.
“What everyone has been, everyone is forgetting, and I am old enough to know, is guys becoming quadriplegics.
“We have a bench in rugby because the way quadriplegia and serious injuries hit the game throughout the 1980s and 90s. They put a bench there to stop that, people could be substituted into places they were trained and could be safe.
“Now this is an abuse of a safety law, there is no two ways about it and there is no way of getting around it, it just is.
“The current set of coaches are saying well look everyone is doing it, why shouldn’t we and that is correct. Andy Farrell and Fabian Galthie are doing it and the Boks are more than entitled to do 7 – 1, they are.
Shifting his focus to the amateur game, Williams said, “If this is done at the lower levels of the game, we will get injuries again.”
Williams goes on to point out that he has witnessed injuries first hand in what is a truly interesting take.