Search icon


24th Oct 2019

“Finishers” – Glorified subs or genuine game-changers?

Rob O'Hanrahan

You’d prefer to be starting though.

The game of rugby has changed massively in recent years. It’s a worthwhile exercise to go back and watch an old game, even from 15 years ago to see just how different it is. There’s a desire for contact, unrecognisable fitness levels and incredible strength in the modern game that just wasn’t matched in times gone by.

As a result, the role of the subs bench has had to change.

The term “finisher” has crept into the lexicon in recent years, the idea that your bench cannot weaken you. The role of a sub is now not to replace the tiring first choice player, but to improve the overall team performance when you enter the field of play. Coaches would have you believe that it is a coveted role.

Eddie Jones brought this idea of a finisher back into discussion when he claimed that George Ford moving to the bench against Australia for their Rugby World Cup Quarter Final wasn’t him being dropped, but merely “changing his role”. He then jokingly invited the questioning journalist to “join us in the 21st Century”. Funnily enough, Ford has had his role “changed” again, as he joins the starting XV for their last four clash against New Zealand this weekend.

Speaking on The JOEpan Rugby Show this week, former Munster player and coach Jerry Flannery agreed with Jones, and insisted it’s something other coaches would agree with;

“Yeah it’s something that I’ve come across coaching as well. Rassie (Erasmus) used to make a point of it, saying that the guys who finish are the guys who actually… Rassie used to say ‘I want to be on the field, when I was a player I wanted to be on the field when we were winning the game, when we won the game, when that final whistle went… I didn’t want to go in and do the job for the first 40’. I think there’s a little bit of ego wrapped up in it, because you want to be the guy that’s out there when the game starts, and feel like you’ve won the jersey. So it’s a difficult one, and it’s a little bit of a hard sell. Maybe it’s coaches, like when Eddie Jones is saying it to George Ford, it’s possibly trying to keep those guys as invested in the team’s interests as possible by saying ‘this is how I view your role’, it’s not a case of ‘oh he’s getting tired, so I’m gonna bring you in… you’re gonna come in and win the game for me’.”

That being said, Fla was pretty clear in how he would have seen it as a player, finisher or no finisher;

“If the coach says it to you, and you believe in it… But I’d prefer to start. I would prefer to start all the time.”

On Episode 9 of The JOEpan Rugby Show, Rob O’Hanrahan and Jerry Flannery take a look back at the pitfalls of Ireland’s 2019 World Cup and preview England v New Zealand in the semi-final. WATCH at the link below:

eir Sport is the only place to watch all 48 games LIVE from the Rugby World Cup –

WATCH: Liverpool BOTTLED the title race 🤬 | Who will win the Premier League?