Cape Town - Referee Nigel Owens has backed former England centre Jeremy Guscott's call for the number of replacements allowed in rugby to be reduced.

Guscott shared his views via a column for the UK-based The Rugby Paper where he suggested that coaches should only be allowed to make three - instead of the customary eight - substitutions.

And in his weekend column for Wales Online, Owens agreed.

"This is something I have been saying for a long time. Every question and answer session I do I am always asked which law I would like to change and I always say I would like to see the substitution law changed," wrote Owens.

While Owens agreed with a reduction in substitutes, he did not believe that Guscott's suggestion of just three replacements per match would be viable. 

"I am not sure if going down to three as Jeremy suggested is doable at the top end of the game but I certainly do believe the game will benefit from reducing it to at least five, even four," said the Welsh referee who many consider to be the best official in the world.

Owens went on to suggest that if substitutions aren't reduced, they way replacement players are used could change instead.

"Even if they don't reduce the number of substitutions the game would certainly benefit from changing the way they are used, whether that's substitutions having to be done at half time or injury substitutions only, but not for tactical reasons. This is something that really needs to be looked at I feel. 

"If you risk taking somebody off that's not injured and another player who comes on gets injured, that other player is out of the equation. This will help close the loophole then if players are not genuinely injured.

"But we need to make sure we don't put any player on the field in jeopardy by forcing them to play on with an injury and put themselves at risk of a more serious injury," said Owens.

Owens believes that the current system actually disrupts a game.

"What happens now in the second half of game, you have 16 players on the bench over the two sides and when substitutions come on and off it disrupts the flow of the game. On many occasions you have 16 new players entering play and playing against players who have to stay on for the full 80.

"It also means that players playing in the front row, for example, who have already been on the pitch 60 minutes may have to play the remaining 20 minutes against a fresh player, who is full of energy, so there's a disadvantage and the competition is not equal then surely," he added.

A drop in the number of replacements allowed would lead to more open rugby felt Owens.

"By reducing the amount of substitutions, players will become more tired which could create more open space in defences and it could lead to more attacking play. 

"Players will need to be able to play the full 80 instead of 50 or 60. The players will need to be fitter and they might need to carry less mass or weight which would naturally reduce the bulk of those big rugby players and reduce the amount of impact and collisions," said Owens.

Owens is the current world record holder for officiating in the most Test matches.