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English Rugby
Johnson weighs in on rolling replacements
October 1, 2009

England manager Martin Johnson believes that a trial involving rolling replacements is almost 'inevitable'.

A trial at elite level was one of 16 recommendations put forward by the RFU's 'Image of the Game' task-group on Wednesday.

The group was formed in the wake of the Harlequins' 'Bloodgate' scandal and the drugs-related suspensions at Bath and they believe that rolling replacements could prevent cheating and safeguard players' welfare.

Harlequins revealed during the 'Bloodgate' hearing that on one occasion they used fake blood to allow medics more than their designated 90 seconds to diagnose the severity of a head injury.

Johnson accepts rolling substitutions would radically alter the fabric of the game but believes it is important the rugby authorities consider them closely.

"Some form of rolling substitutions needs to be looked at," said Johnson. "I am a traditionalist and I liked it when 15 guys had to battle it out and you had to be fit for 80 minutes, but you come around to thinking about it as a possibility.

"It is the alternatives. How did we get to people faking blood injuries? Player safety is an issue with players getting bangs on the head. It needs to be looked at carefully and I am sure it will be trialled. You get to that point from other issues - the concussion and the blood bin - and maybe it is inevitable."

RFU medical chief Simon Kemp also weighed in with a worrying statistic; that up to 60% of players who have suffered concussion have continued playing due to a lack of awareness in terms of the severity. Currently a player may only leave the field temporarily with a blood injury, but Johnson recalled an incident involving prop Phil Vickery during last season's Six Nations game with Scotland that suggested a change could seriously benefit players.

"Phil Vickery ended up with serious concussion and he didn't play for a long while afterwards but at the time, in the first 90 seconds, our doctor said it was difficult for him to diagnose how bad Phil was, whether he was just dazed or badly concussed," he said. "Fortunately, at the time Phil needed treatment for a cut so he could come off for a blood injury and have time to be assessed properly.

"When that was done it was obvious that no way was he going back on a rugby field that day or even for quite a while. It is good that some of these issues have been brought out in the report and that they are being discussed."

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