England legend doubles down on Bordeaux and Springboks size concern despite Harlequins’ ‘unlikely’ win

Harlequins’ remarkable Investec Champions Cup triumph has not made Brian Moore revise his opinion on the size of some of the packs around the world.

Against all odds, the English team defeated Bordeaux-Begles 42–41 on Saturday to advance to the competition’s semi-finals for the first time ever.

After Bordeaux defeated Saracens 45–12 the previous week, Moore voiced his displeasure in the Telegraph column, claiming that the French team was simply too large and that it was bad for the game to have players like 23rd prop Ben Tameifuna running around.

He suggested placing a cap on replacements, believing that this would make people lose weight and lessen the effect of the hits.

Moore contends that this would then improve player welfare.

Springboks also a target for ex-England hooker

He said last week, “Take any of South Africa’s recent matches and you can see the ‘Bomb squad’ size and power dynamic at work.”

It is undeniably effective, and as a result, when sides try to compete by imitating these examples, a trend is certain to emerge.

“Rugby must be explicit about this matter. It can play any kind of game it wants, and you have the right to think that way if you like enormous player collisions. You have to acknowledge, though, that embracing this strategy will inevitably have certain consequences.

“It is not safer for certain players to play an entire 80 minutes against two players who are bulked up and trained to play only a portion of each game in terms of safety.”

“It is also less safe, in terms of repeated subconcussive impacts, to have players who maximise their size and power, knowing they have to play only a limited role in a game.

“Having players play a full game would also allow teams to give players a full week off if they were played in alternate games instead of playing a limited time every match.

“When it comes to longer-term effects, what do you think parents think when they see this rush for size? From direct experience, I can tell you they think this sort of imbalance exists at every level and this dissuades some parents from allowing their kid even to try rugby.”

Moore doubted Quins’ capabilities of beating Bordeaux given the difference in size, but the Premiership outfit confounded the doubters.

They played with their typical verve, a key staple of the Londoners’ game, but the visitors also competed well up front and dominated the Frenchmen in both scrum and driving maul.

Young prop Fin Baxter excelled at the set-piece, regularly sending Tameifuna into reverse, while the team scored one try from a maul and had a second disallowed due to a knock-on over the line.

Moore stated that the result and display ‘made a mockery’ of his pre-match prediction, but insisted that it did not prove his wider point wrong.

Quins and Leinster outliers

“Saturday’s thrilling 42-41 win by Harlequins, over French side Bordeaux-Begles, made a mockery of the severe doubts I voiced about their winning chances in last week’s column,” he wrote.

“Quins have been the authors of so many extraordinary and unlikely rugby victories in the past few seasons that I, and nearly everyone else, should probably by now have learned to caveat any predictions about the West London side with the words ‘but we are talking about Harlequins’.

“Some might say that this Quins’ win is evidence that my assertions of last week about the ever-increasing power focus of modern rugby and substitutions were also wrong.

“I concede that I ought not to have limited the teams that are able to counteract these issues to Leinster, Ireland and the All Blacks but I maintain the general points.

“There’s no denying that Quins needed to equal Bordeaux’s immense strength in order to win. They were able to accomplish this because of the strong play of forwards like Fin Baxter.

Quins entered the game without Danny Care and Joe Marler, two important players, but Baxter and backup scrum-half Will Porter excelled in their place, earning praise from the former England hooker.

Moore continued, “Honorable mention should also be given to another Quins deputy, scrum-half Will Porter, who rendered Danny Care’s absence inconsequential.

“He demonstrated Care-like tendencies by gathering his own chip kick to score the second of his two tries, in addition to providing Marcus Smith with quick and dependable service.”


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