South Africa’s muscular subs bench cleared for Rugby World Cup

 (Action Images via Reuters)
(Action Images via Reuters)

South Africa are free to use their seven-one replacements bench split at the Rugby World Cup.

The Springboks loaded their bench with seven forwards and just one back in Friday’s 35-7 thrashing of New Zealand at Twickenham. Critics have raised safety concerns, but World Rugby are satisfied that the ploy does not carry any heightened risk to players.

Test teams tend to select five forwards and three backs among their replacements, although South Africa have made a six-two split a feature of the power side of their game.

International regulations require a replacement front-row on the bench, but beyond that teams are free to compile their bench however they see fit.

Former Scotland head coach Matt Williams accused South Africa of “abusing” the bench with their tactic in light of the Springboks’ muscular triumph over New Zealand, the All Blacks’ heaviest-ever international loss.

Williams believes the seven-one split should be outlawed and urged World Rugby to set new limits, but the governing body will not change the ­regulations, leaving South Africa free to stack their bench full of forwards.

The biggest risk with a seven-one split is how to cope with multiple backline injuries. South Africa boast several versatile forwards like Kwagga Smith that they believe can cope in the backline, allowing them to carry an extra threat.

Meanwhile, England face the prospect of World Cup travel disruption if a planned strike of French air traffic controllers on September 15 goes ahead.

England are due to fly to Nice that day, before facing Japan there on September 17. The same journey by train could take up to 10 hours.