Are Size Differentials in Rugby Becoming Too Dangerous?

Shane Williams

News that 145KG lock Cameron Skelton had signed for the Chiefs struck me with two thoughts when I heard it.

My first thought was that it looks like an excellent signing for the Chiefs. If he’s half the player his brother Will already is then he is sure to have a huge impact for the Chiefs as they look to mount another Super Rugby title challenge in 2015.

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Secondly however my thoughts turned to the sheer size of Cameron. At 205cm and 145kg (that’s 6’7″ and 22.8 Stone in old money) he looks set to be one of the heaviest men in Super Rugby. Even scarier is the fact that at just 19 years of age there’s still plenty of time for Cameron to get bigger and stronger.

I’m sure some rugby purists will spout some idiotic comment about “manning up” at me now but the fact is that a bloke that size could do some serious damage on a rugby field. You have to wonder how much potential damage Skelton carrying his 145kg frame at full flight could do to say a scrum half attempting to bring him down.

For comparison I would point to a potential opponent of Skelton’s next year, Highlanders scrum half Fumiaki Tanaka. The Japanese scrum half is just 166cm and 72kg meaning he is quite literally half the weight of Skelton.

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As brave and well coached as Tanaka is, to me, there is only one winner in that collision, and the likelihood of Fumiaki coming out of the challenge with more than just a bruised ego seems quite high.

Whilst this may just be one extreme example of the size differentials in rugby, the difference’s between some players seems to be growing year on year. For example take a look at Welsh scrum half Mike Phillips who comes in at 104kg compared to his Six Nations compatriot Greig Laidlaw who is just 80kg.

Now I don’t know about you but putting an extra 20kg on a barbell in the gym makes a pretty significant different to how many reps I can perform. Bare in mind these are two players who operate in the same position in rugby, just compare Laidlaw to say Welsh prop Adam Jones who is a full 40kg heavier.

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To me these kind of weight mismatches look to be a serious issue for player welfare as concerns about concussion are continually brought to light. It seems inevitable that smaller players are much more likely to catch a hip, knee or even swinging are due to their lower body positioning in the tackle.

Now I know it’s not exactly possible to ban players who exceed a certain weight, however to me it seems the IRB need to be looking to do something to encourage teams to focus more on skill than size in rugby.

Do you think the rugby’s size differentials are too dangerous?

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2 comments

  1. Big men have a problem: once they are tackled, they must return to their feet to play the game. If a big man becomes a problem in the game (they tackle well, they run well, etc), put them on the ground, over and over and over. Are some of them physically fit enough to handle that activity? Yes, maybe. However, most days it enough to slow them down.

    Were folks talking about the size mismatch when Os du Randt was playing? He was 300lbs and had pace. Shane Williams never seemed to mind tackling Os.

  2. Jacob Thomas Behm

    I suppose if you force the game to become faster or more physically demanding, the players won’t be able to get as big.

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