- Ask Steven Rugby
Getting that added coverJohn GriffithsMay 17, 2014
When was the replacements bench for Tests increased from six to seven ? Joe King, England
The IRB announced at its January 1998 meeting that the number of bench replacements for international matches would be increased from six to seven with immediate effect.
The first games affected by the new ruling were those on the opening weekend of that year's Five Nations: February 7 1998: the matches between France and England in Paris and Ireland and Scotland in Dublin.
The same weekend, outside the Championship, Wales met Italy in a full cap match in Llanelli. Seven replacements occupied the benches for that game, too.
The convention up to that date was for the six subs to comprise a prop, hooker, utility forward, scrum-half, fly-half and utility outside back (usually a threequarter). The seventh man allowed from 1998 was usually an extra back-five forward. It was not until the recent increase to eight on the bench that all three front-row positions had to be covered.
John Griffiths is a widely respected rugby historian and is the author of several sports books, a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and co-author of the IRB International Rugby Yearbook. He has provided insight for Scrum.com since 1999.