Scott Fardy: ‘The game is getting more physical – it starts to take a toll’

At 36, the Australian is hanging up his boots after his 80th game with Leinster on Friday

It comes as no surprise that, at 36, Scott Fardy is sanguine about the thought that Leinster's game with the Dragons on Friday will be his 80th and last before he rides off into the Australian sunset.

Yet his rationale for retiring and his observations on the way rugby is going are revealing.

"I was contemplating it last year, but I thought I would keep going here because I was enjoying every day I came into Leinster. I never wake up and don't want to come in. I think every day I spring out of bed – well, I don't know if I spring out of bed, I'm pretty old – but I get out of bed ready to go.

“But there is always a time. You don’t want to get to the point where your body can’t do anything when you stop playing and I’m still at a point now where I’ll be able to play golf and run with the kids. I didn’t want to get to a point where I just completely destroyed the body – and the game is getting more and more physical. It starts to take a toll.”

Indeed, after a dozen seasons at the top end of the professional game – three in Japan, six with the Brumbies and four in Leinster, as well as winning 39 caps for the Wallabies – Fardy has seen the game change and not, in his view, for the better.

“There are more and more athletes in the game and bigger bodies, and the ball in play time is starting to diminish, especially in the north with the way people are lying down for injuries.

‘Slowing down’

“The game is slowing down, and it’s getting quite ridiculous, because it just allows those bigger and bigger players to manage their way through 80 minutes. It’s become less of an endurance game and more of a power game over the last five years especially. With the bigger bodies, the game is getting more and more physical.

“I’d definitely like to see that change,” he admits, and would rid the game of stoppages for injuries. “Obviously, if a guy has got a concussion, we stop, but if they’ve got an injury, just walk to the sideline and get treated, and if you want to come back on, you come back on. But I don’t see the value in stopping the game.”

Citing the two hour-plus Glasgow-Leinster game last Friday, he added:

“I think people lose interest after a certain amount of time and the games are going on for way too long at the moment, with TMOs and all that stuff. I think people just switch off.”

Most of all Fardy enjoyed winning trophies with Leinster, and, as well as four Pro14 titles, there was a Heineken Champions Cup in 2017-18. After missing his planned Euro debut in the home win over Montpellier in October 2017 when his wife, Penelope Austin, went into labour that morning to give birth to their son August, he started seven of Leinster's nine matches in that triumph, including all three knockout games.

His favourite?

Man of the Match

“I think the 2018 semi-final against the Scarlets was one of the best we played,” he says of that 38-16 win, when he was one of Leinster’s five try scorers and Man of the Match. “In the sun, in front of a very loud home crowd, I think it was a great performance. I don’t think we played that well in the final a few weeks later [against Racing in Bilbao] but that was probably the pick of the bunch.”

An exceptional lineout operator, tough and durable, like Nathan Hines and Brad Thorn before him, Fardy's presence just made Leinster a better team. In his 62 starts, he was on the losing side seven times.

Stuart Lancaster paid Fardy the ultimate tribute this week when saying: "He's the forward's version of Isa Nacewa and that's the highest accolade anyone can give a player from Leinster. He'd play every game if he could.

“He played just as hard when all of the internationals were away. In fact he’d play his best sometimes during those dark days in January and February when you have to go away to Wales or Scotland. He would be the guy to galvanise the troops and pull them all together. A father figure really.”

Fardy intimated he may soon be embarking on a coaching career in Australia, and Lancaster also gave this move his imprimatur.

“He’s got plenty of thoughts on the game and I want to try and help him make that transition because if he can do that successfully then I think he’ll make a great coach.”