SPOTLIGHT ON SUBSTITUTES: WHAT DO WE KNOW?

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Samuel P Hills, Steve Barrett & Mark Russell

Substitutes in team sports have generated much media attention in recent years, with the head coach of England’s rugby union team, Eddie Jones, now referring to his replacements as ‘finishers, on account of their highly specialised role. Notwithstanding, the practices and responses of substitute players, particularly in football, remain poorly understood.

Substitutes are typically introduced at half-time or during the second-half of match-play, often with the primary objectives of offsetting the effects of fatigue (i.e., declining physical and/or technical performance amongst starting players) and/ or altering some aspect of team strategy (e.g., changing formation or playing ‘style’) [1]. However, substitutions may be made for a number of different reasons, and may also reflect decisions to replace individuals deemed to be underperforming or injured, the existence of squad rotation policies, and/ or a desire to provide playing time to youth players or those returning from injury [1].

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