In 2010 I read somewhere that the average career longevity in English rugby’s Premiership was less than four seasons.
Of course, the factors contributing in this brevity can range from informed personal choice (e.g. an active change of career direction, a family illness, shifting priorities) to the involuntary – e.g. falling out of favour with the club powers-that-be, hitting a brick wall in terms of personal playing development or a club being relegated and having to reduce its squad budget – which definition includes, most particularly, injury.
Rugby is one of the most physically demanding of sports and increasingly so.
Year by year, players are becoming bigger and stronger – yet the pitch remains the same size as it was decades ago – and the schemes of defending, plus tackling and ‘sacking’ techniques, become ever more effective. There was an era when defence was just defence, an underrated aspect of the game (some of the tackling in great matches from the past occasional replayed on television seems laughable by today’s standards), but now ‘aggressive defence’ – coming up in line at top speed and ‘pressurising’ the opposition when it has the ball – is a treasured feature of any team’s armoury. In most Premiership matches I see in the flesh, or on television, you can hear the crowd openly ‘wincing’, or taking in a collective breath, at the violence of some of the collisions.
Here’s an article on the subject by Robert Kitson that appears on the website of The Guardian today – ROBERT KITSON ARTICLE