1 thought on “Getting a grip on rugby shirt evolution

  1. I like the look of the old shirts. I can see that with professionalism, the old cotton shirts aren’t going to return, but in this year’s Six Nation’s, 2021, Scotland have a traditional look. I played in and still use the old fashioned shirt as a ref. There are heavy weight ones and lighter weight ones, something not said in the article. I got an old Bath jersey, Bukta brand, from the 70’s, and it’s quite light weight compared to the Barbarian brand of shirt that is made in Canada. I played in that Barbarian shirt a few years, and on a warm day they did get heavy with sweat, but usually the teams I played with got Canterbury jerseys, and they were of a comfortable weight;I only used Barbarian as a referee if the temperature is below 55F. I’m in Northern California, so a cloudy day in December and January, there can be chilly days in the low 50’s and upper 40’s, and I’ve reffed in those conditions, rain cloud, or sun. If it’s warmer, then I have medium weight, but for weather in the 70’s, the Uneek brand of shirt from the UK comes in handy. It’s very,very light weight, and cheap too. Anyway, I do not see, as a referee, why I should use a polyester shirt, and with short sleeves, so if it is cool or chlly, I’d have to wear sleeves under them. In fact, I wonder why those polyester tight fitting shirts aren’t made with long sleeves? Playing on a hard surface, one’s elbows can get chewed up. If it’s cold, I want my sleeves covered, as a good part of my legs aren’t! I played on the wing or fullback, and on those muddy ten man rugby days, standing around a good part of the game, I did not want to get cold! Reffing a women’s match in rain and muddy conditions, there are going to be a lot of knock ons, and therefore play stoppages, and again, standing around as a scrum forms, I do not want to get cold.
    Anyway, these tight-fitting shirts do mean that tacklers have to get a good hold on a player, or come in for a very physical tackle. Then again, with the current “fashion” of not tucking in one’s shirt, I have seen some shirt tails get grabbed by the defender, so what’s with that? I would have my shirt tucked in if I were still playing. Even the shorts seem easier to pull down, as has happened to the player’s embarrassment in an Australian match a few years ago, and more famously perhaps, to that England woman in that match against the USA in Ireland in the Women’s World Cup in 2017. I have to wonder if the rise in head concussions in rugby union is correlated to the use of these tight-fitting shirts, because with the older style, there were more tackles in which a defender could get a good hold on a shirt, and therefore less very physical body and head contact. Rugby tackles are supposed to be made with the defender getting his or her arms around the hips of the ball carrier, and then slide down to the knees to complete the tackle. The head was supposed to go behind, not in front, of the legs to avoid getting a knee in the head. Crash tackles are done more now than ever before, and with the result of more injuries, especially to the head, and ball carriers seem to drive right into tackles, instead of avoiding contact, which makes for a very boring game of multiple phases and phony rucks. Players are bigger and more physical in these modern times, especially in the professional ranks, not that there weren’t big players before, but there were less of them overall. Someone 6’4″ would not have been playing in the back line, for instance; that player would be in the second row or at number 8 in the old days. 6’3″ wings were around, like John Kerwin or David Duckham, but they were an exception rather than the rule. Now it’s quite common for back line players on international teams to be all over 6 feet in height, some wings 6’5″ even, and even the scrum halves are tall. The rarity now in international rugby is a player of 5’8″, and that was the height of famous Welsh backs Gerald Davies and Gareth Edwards, two of the top players at wing and scrumhalf the world has ever seen play.
    So, if the new jerseys could at least look like the old ones, why not? I never saw anyone get tackled by the collar. Good on Scotland for wearing their traditional look, though polyester, jerseys. Now if they’d get rid of the blue stripes on the shorts! Finally, could rucking come back? Real rucking! Very simple: if a player gets stamped on, the player doing it gets red carded, just like the blow to head law in place now! And please, back lines, keep doing what I saw in the Scotland v Wales match in February: chip kick ahead, regather, and score. That should break up defensive lines!

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