Two-time Welsh Grand Slam winner Jamie Roberts is backing the International Rugby Players (IRP) council in its stance over proposed changes to rugby’s international structure.
The Bath star, who has so far won 97 international caps, said: “I’m with the IRP on this, from the player welfare perspective."
Roberts was speaking to members and guests of the Sport Industry Private Dining Club, which held its first gathering of 2019 at Searcy’s members club in Mayfair.
The dinner took place as the IRP held a video-conference of its members to discuss the proposed new World League structure being developed by World Rugby in consultation with other stakeholders throughout the game.
In a wide-ranging discussion that covered favourite sponsorships, best tour memories and plenty of chat about Wales’ Six Nations win over England, Roberts spoke passionately about his belief in the traditions of rugby.
He explained: “Rugby is a sport of values and tradition. I’m a big fan of maintaining the traditions – the Babarians; not cutting down Lions tours…
“It’s important to keep the traditions in rugby because it’s not the same sport without it.
“South Africa is my favourite place to tour because it has a similar rugby culture to Wales. You feel that passion as soon as you touch down and it’s special.”
The qualified medical doctor also expressed concerns about the increasing physical nature of rugby as he looked to the future of the sport over the next 10 years.
He said: “The game’s changing every year. It’s quicker; the players are getting faster and stronger.
“Concussion [regulation and management] will see a lot more change. World Rugby has been significantly proactive in managing concussion.
“It’s probably the only sport that’s actually changed its laws in response to this question. It’s great that World Rugby is doing that for player welfare.
“Part of me does worry about the future, seeing the pace of change. We have to wait for the first cohort of professional rugby players to pass before we can really know the impact on their brains.”
Roberts, who completed his medical studies alongside playing every match in Wales’ Grand Slam-winning campaign in 2012, is currently studying for a fourth degree (an MBA) and said he was uncertain of his long-term professional ambitions.
He explained his enthusiasm for studying, saying: “You’d be amazed about how much time professional rugby players have.
“It gives me an escape and it helps my rugby. It means I enjoy it more.”
Roberts, who was the British and Irish Lions player of the tour in 2009, has so far played in two Rugby World Cups.
Looking ahead to the tournament in Japan, he cautioned fans not to read too much into the current form book.
He said: “It happens every time. Players will get injured and come in and out of form. I guarantee that the likes of South Africa, Australia and France will peak for the World Cup.”
Regardless, the Welshman took every opportunity to bask in the glory of Wales’ latest Six Nations triumph over England: “Cardiff hasn’t seen a day like Saturday in 25 years. It was like Warhammer on the streets that night.”