I’ve posted before about the changing size and strength of rugby players – and I don’t mean me and the rest of the old blokes getting porky.
There was a scary statistic I read somewhere yesterday – apparently the combined weight of the England U20 front row is more than the front three in 2003 that won the World Cup! I never thought of Phil, Steve and Trev as being under nourished but it would appear that they had been existing on only the one Weetabix whilst down under. Nevertheless, despite this vitamin deficiency, they managed to demolish the Aussies. Andre obviously didn’t bother to eat his carrots that day as his eyesight was somewhat suspect when he tried to ref the front row – mind you he didn’t look like he’d missed out on too many cream buns!
I looked back at some of the Askean team photos in the 60s, 70s and 80s (years not player ages) and apart from the odd one or two there wasn’t a massive (sic) difference in all our sizes. I bet if you checked today though we’d all tip the scales a tad higher. Not me obviously – I was a fat bastard even back then!
You used to be able to tell what position a bloke played without looking at the number on his shirt – hookers and backs – especially scrum halves and wingers were generally a bit scrawnier. There were exceptions – Dunky and some of our New Zealand recruits looked more like props than backs – until they started legging it, that is. The rest of the backs looked pretty average – particularly me when I had the ball in hand (on the few occasions I didn’t drop it anyway).
Today, guys like Mike Philips, George North and any number of Islanders have broken the size stereotype – not to mention the ‘Tongan Thor’ who is now even more popular on YouTube than that stupid berk shouting out ‘Fenton’ over and over again.
The size, strength and hits are growing in the game – with the inevitable consequence that injuries are more frequent and serious.
I picked up more than my fair share of pretty nasty injuries (as you can read in the post on ‘Getting Hurt’ at www.rugbyoldbloke.wordpress.com ) – god knows how much worse it would have been if I’d had bastards the size of George North clattering me! Having said that, I mostly preferred to face a big sod rather than one of those nippy buggers who could make you look a right twat when they skipped past and left you clutching the space they’d been some time earlier.
I have no idea how all this will affect the game as it continues to develop but I suspect we still have a weigh to go!