20th May, 2019

Make union a summer sport - Lamb

Worcester Editorial 29th Jul, 2015 Updated: 19th Oct, 2016

WHAT if rugby union was a summer sport?

For some hardy fans, this might be difficult to imagine as rugby has become part of our winter sporting calendar.

But for others this is the way forward and, according to Warriors star Ryan Lamb, there are many people within the game who are calling on rugby chiefs to make radical changes.

Since the first real national league structure was introduced in 1987, clubs have started in September, battled their way through the winter months and then completed their fixtures in either April or May.

However, speaking to The Observer, Lamb said he personally thought the system in its current guise is stopping the sport, which turned professional 20 years ago, from growing even more.

Although he admitted he had never been a fan of playing in wet conditions, he believes rugby in the summer sun would attract new audiences and make it more appealing to youngsters.

“I would campaign for summer rugby all day,” he said.

“Everyone loves a Friday night when it is nice and dry with a barbecue going, and everyone can sit outside, have a few beers and enjoy the atmosphere.

“When it is raining, rugby becomes an arm-wrestle. The props will tell you they love it, but I don’t think everyone wants to see big lads rolling around in the mud for 80 minutes.

“I wouldn’t want to take my kid out when it is hammering it down with rain and freezing cold.

“It is just set piece after set piece, ref’s whistle after ref’s whistle after ref’s whistle. If you want to come and watch that, then go and watch wrestling.”

And he is not alone in his views as retired Worcester lock Craig Gillies, who became well-renowned for his skills at the set piece, felt a move to the summer would be the ‘perfect solution’ to help the game move to new levels.

“I may be a little bit different to other front five forwards who are quite happy running around in the wet and the dirt,” Gillies said.

“But I have thought for years that it would actually make a lot of sense to make it a summer sport.

“I think the game has changed immeasurably since it turned professional and the way the game is played is vastly different now to what it used to be.

“You have got guys now – even in the front row – who can run, handle the ball, carry it, tackle and generally get around the pitch remarkably well.

“And I just think the days sticking the ball under your jumper and just grinding the game out are pretty much behind us now.”

A similar debate took place in 2011 – also a World Cup year – when Premiership rugby owners were considering the move, but nothing materialised.

Lamb does not think changes should be made to the amateur game, but he is confident top flight teams can pull off the switch, with the season potentially starting in January and finishing in September.

Rugby league went from winter to summer in 1996 and the fly half believes union should follow suit as he thinks the sport would be able to rake in more television money.

“Everyone wants to go to a rugby game to see tries and in rugby league you see a hell of a lot of them and everyone likes to watch it,” he said.

“You would only be competing with them and cricket whereas football is the biggest sport in England and you won’t be competing with them for TV rights.

“Also, no games would be cancelled and if it is on Sky people wouldn’t be ‘umming and ahhing’ whether to play it.

“I have been in that position loads of time when it is dangerous for people to come but they have still got to play it because it is on television.

“A switch to the summer is a no-brainer for me personally, but it is obviously up to the powers that be.”

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