Roberts: We need to keep a “feel for the game”

By International Rugby Players

We introduce you to the men and women of our Players’ Council who played (or still play) the game and are now working with us to make sure the Players’ Voice is front and centre.

Jamie Roberts is just back from the gym and is chatting to us while minding his daughter and his dog. 

Despite having two tours of duty with the British and Irish Lions, 94 caps for Wales and having lined out for Cardiff, Racing 92, Harlequins, Bath, Stormers, Dragons and the NSW Waratahs, domestic duties are a reality of modern life no matter how impressive the CV. 

The Welshman is, among many other things, a member of IRP’s Player Council and as part of that, sits on the Men’s XV high-performance group with IRP staff member Conrad Smith as well as England’s Ugo Monye and Australia’s Dean Mumm. 

“It’s a privilege to be involved in the Players Council and Men’s XV group” said Roberts. 

“I guess as a player, I have a bit of experience so it’s how I can shape that experience to give back and benefit the game, going forward. We (the high-performance group) can all add valuable insight into decision-making in the global game.”

Two recent “Shape of the Game” meetings in London were attended by players and Roberts was impressed to see so many stakeholders from the world of rugby all in the one room.

“Very rarely do we get all of rugby’s stakeholders in the room, whether that’s coaches, directors of rugby, chief executives…it’s brilliant. I guess we are then able to represent the players’ voice and we have to make sure the right decisions are made with player welfare at heart.”

Behind the scenes, Roberts and the group have been part of World Rugby’s “calibration” calls where laws of the game, and their application, have been under the microscope.

“We’ve been working with the referees and head coaches, running the rule over video clips of red cards, discussing whether they are warranted. It’s really interesting but it just goes to show how far rugby has to go when the room is split 50/50 over certain decisions. 

“This is where the game is at the minute. And so, it’s vitally, vitally important that we still have a feel for the game and it’s the players that provide that. We’re the guys and girls that can offer insight and give the feel for the game in these conversations…and that’s crucial. ” 


Much has been made of the differing interests of stakeholders in the global game, something Roberts is aware of from his work with International Rugby Players, but also from his work in the media. 

“Rugby is always going to be fragmented when it comes to various leagues and the international calendar. I know a lot of work is going on around the global season.

“We also must remember that the media landscape is hugely fragmented and rugby loses out, no doubt about that. When you talk about American sport and how the media rights are packaged, the pie is far bigger and everyone gets a bigger slice of the pie. Self-interest in our game works against itself, really!

“Rugby will always fight on those fronts. It’s hard to see it completely aligned, but in the same breath the work of our player groups and pulling the stakeholders together is doing that. We have a long way to go but we have to remember how young rugby is professionally…and we’re still learning. 

“As a former Welsh player, Roberts was very aware of the situation his former team-mates found themselves in during the recent Six Nations, when they threatened to go on strike over a range of issues with the Welsh Rugby Union. 

Looking back on the turmoil, the former centre said it has put the focus firmly on the need to look after the players.

“The current situation in Wales has really asked questions about what is player welfare and what defines player welfare.

“(To me) It is about making sure that players are happy on the pitch and off the pitch. That covers a host of aspects – contractual, family, lifestyle…there’s so may inputs in to that. 

“As International Rugby Players, we’re trying to grow awareness of that and also make sure people are having the right conversations about making the right decisions.

With so much going on in the game right now, Roberts will be busy making sure those decisions are made for the players in the years to come.

International Rugby Players

/ Contributor

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