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

Colin Newboult
Harlequins celebrating after defeating Bordeaux-Begles in the Champions Cup.

Harlequins celebrating after defeating Bordeaux-Begles in the Champions Cup.

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.

The English outfit overcame the odds to defeat Bordeaux-Begles 42-41 on Saturday and move into the semi-finals of the competition for the first time ever.

Moore complained in last week’s Telegraph column – after Bordeaux had thrashed Saracens 45-12 – that the French outfit were effectively too big and that having players such as 23st prop Ben Tameifuna rumbling around was not good for the game.

He proposed introducing a limit on replacements, which he thinks would force individuals to slim down and thus reduce the impact of the hits.

That in turn, Moore argues, would benefit player welfare.

Springboks also a target for ex-England hooker

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

“You cannot deny that it is effective and, as such, is a trend that is likely to develop as sides attempt to compete by copying these examples.

“Rugby needs to be clear about this issue. It can have whatever sort of game it wants and if you prefer massive collisions between huge players, you are entitled to that view. However, what you must admit are the ineluctable effects of accepting this policy.

“In terms of safety, it cannot be safer for some players to play a full 80 minutes against two players trained and bulked to play only part of each match.

“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.”

‘Go cry somewhere else’ – England great receives backlash after concern over huge Bordeaux and Springboks packs

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.

“Make no mistake, Quins had to match Bordeaux’s huge power to enable the win. They did so on the back of physical performances from players like Fin Baxter and his fellow forwards.”

Quins went into the clash without key duo Joe Marler and Danny Care but Baxter and reserve scrum-half Will Porter shone in their absence, leading to praise from the ex-England hooker.

“Tribute should also be made to another Quins’ deputy, scrum-half Will Porter, who made Danny Care’s unavailability a non-decisive factor,” Moore added.

“Not only was his service to Marcus Smith rapid and reliable, he showed Care-like tendencies in gathering his own chip kick to score the second of his two tries.”

READ MORE: Harlequins player ratings: No Danny Care or Joe Marler, no problem