Had anyone who tried to convince me two months ago that the Experimental Law Variations were a positive move for rugby would have received short shrift.
Now, I’m not so sure.
News that Jamie Forrester, the former England and Gloucester back-row forward, had been forced to retire through injury shed some light on a worrying trend enveloping the sport.
In so many ways, the 27-year-old epitomised what has changed since professionalism: he was a back-row forward with startling pace, the hands of a centre and supreme athletic ability.
While tragic scrum-related injuries like those incurred by Nuneaton’s Daniel James and Leicester’s Matt Hampson thankfully remain scarce, there is undeniably a link between curtailed careers and the increased physicality within the sport. If that seems like an obvious connection to make, that’s because it is; but the extent to which the corollary goes is absurdly far-reaching.
The Rugby Football Union website has some damning statistics on the subject: England international forwards and backs in 2003 weighed, on average, 109kg and 90kg respectively, compared with 100kg and 83kg for their counterparts in 1991.
Research found that a greater proportion of a player’s increased weight was lean body mass, therefore meaning greater force being generated in collisions.
Between 1995 and 2003, there has also been a 30 per cent increase in the time the ball is in play, significantly increasing the chance of injury per match.
More than 2,000 injuries at Guinness Premiership clubs were recorded in the 18-month research period between 2002 and 2004, which equates to 92 injuries per team per season.
On average, nine out of 38 players at every club required treatment and rehabilitation each day for the knocks reported and, of 72 per cent of match injuries caused in contact, 51 per cent came in the tackle situation.
These are only a selection of what, in my opinion, are the most notable figures from the RFU’s findings. Bear in mind that this project was concluded four years ago and that an argument could easily be made to suggest that the game has become even more brutal since then. It is no surprise that roughly 40 international rugby players have been forced to retire early in the past four years. More will follow unless the game changes.
On top of proving just how hazardous rugby has become, the research also highlights how much the sport has changed - many of the people who now go to matches as spectators have little comprehension of what it is they are watching.
This notion dawned on me while covering a Moseley match earlier in the season when I started eavesdropping on some of the all-knowing supporters standing near me (not Moseley supporters, incidentally).
While the much-derided ELVs have served to complicate matters further for supporters and in a legal sense, they could prove to be the sport’s saviour.
Rugby’s challenge in the long term will not be in addressing its arcane laws but reversing the trend which has seen power prevail over skill - and the ELVs can help this.
We have already seen teams - especially Wasps - forced to adapt defensive attitudes at the breakdown in order for the ball to be played quicker - meaning fewer men being committed to rucks and a subsequently diminished chance of players sustaining injury in the most combative area of the pitch.
If the ELVs become permanent, it will mean all teams have to adapt; forwards will have to be much fitter - therefore much lighter - and the game will be won and lost in the open spaces rather than in the dark corners of rucks and mauls.
Such thoughts will not be of comfort to Jamie Forrester but it might just provide some longevity for special talents like his.
That, surely, is rugby’s priority.