BACKHANDING the suggestion Australian Rugby Union players are becoming "soft", former Wallabies captain Phil Kearns yesterday jumped to the defence of a new generation of rugby stars.
Amid a storm of criticism surrounding ARU stars and a growing fascination with social media, fashion and fame, Kearns admitted times have changed but the love of rugby hasn't.
"There's a huge difference between players of my generation and kids today - times have changed a lot since I was playing," he said yesterday.
"The main thing that hasn't changed is that they still play for the love of the game.
"Players nowadays put it a lot more effort than we did back in the day.
"They love the challenge, hey love the game, the competition is stronger and they put the effort in accordingly.
“They train a lot harder than we did.
"The athleticism of the game is better than ever – players these days are fitter, faster, stronger, they’re very agile and for the most part it’s great for the game.
“The ball’s in play for at least 10 minutes longer than when I was playing, it’s a lot faster and it’s great for the fans to see.”
When Kearns was dominating Australian Rugby Union in the 90s, the popular social media outlets had not been dreamed of.
Now a popular media identity, Kearns is highly regarded as one of most formidable rugby forwards of all time, having played 67 Tests as a Wallabies hooker.
Steadfastly involved with the international rugby, Kearnes believes the biggest downfall of the “Twitter generation” is the danger of disconnecting from the outside world.
“The major downfall is that some young players don’t have as much of a connection with the outside world,” he said.
“They’ve lost those connections to business and other possibilities beyond rugby.
“A lot of players nowadays study, which is good to see, but playing rugby is their full-time job.
“They don’t make enough to retire on.
“I hope they realise that there’s something to offer outside of rugby.”