Jamie Heaslip has aired worries about player welfare over controversial plans for a World Rugby League.
The former Ireland number 8, who was speaking to Today FM’s Matt Cooper as part of a Guinness Six Nations preview show in Thomond Park, Limerick earlier this week, also cited the future of club rugby as another major concern.
It was proposed recently that a 12-team league involving the Six Nations representatives and their Rugby Championships counterparts, as well as Japan and the USA, would begin in 2020 with teams playing each other once in the calendar year.
As it stands, there would be no promotion or relegation, meaning the Pacific Island sides and countries such as Canada and Georgia would be frozen out for an initial period of 12 years.
Heaslip said: “Everyone’s running for the hills now on exactly who proposed it. There’s chat of no promotion for 12 years - that’s insane.
"How do you expect the Tier 2 nations to grow, how do you expect the sport to grow in emerging markets if that’s going to be your attitude?”
The International Rugby Players (IRP) body has already highlighted six areas of concern.
Heaslip told Today FM’s The Last Word: “They keep talking about player welfare, but what they’re doing is actually getting players to play more games. They’re saying this is for the betterment of the game but if anything, it will affect the club game.
"All the way down, separate to Leinster and Munster, rugby is built on the club games no matter what layer you go up. I know the international game is key in terms of generating money back down, but they need each other”
“If you establish this league, you are challenging that. Which is a big worry for me personally but really the player welfare.
"Who’s going to benefit here? Are the players going to benefit? I don’t know. They’re going to run into the wall a whole lot more.”
Drawing on his own experience, Heaslip also voiced his concerns about player injury.
He said: “From being a player in the game who had to finish because of an injury, I know when you come out the other end of that. I got very well rewarded for playing 15 years professionally, regardless of what the media said.
"I had a good run in terms of contracts, it doesn’t set you up for life, and I’ve come out with a bad back, I drove down from Dublin today for 2-and-a-half hours in the car and I struggle to get out of the car. The player gets no reward.”
Heaslip told Today FM that he doesn’t see the incentive for the player in the proposal.
He said: “If you’re going to ask these guys to do more now, when the game is getting faster, the ball is in play more statistically, guys are getting bigger, hits are getting harder and the severity of injuries is going up?
"That’s a big question. I don’t know what the carrot is for the player.”
As a representative for the International Rugby Players Association, Heaslip currently sits on World Rugby’s Rugby Committee and will be attending a meeting of the committee in Dublin on Tuesday next.
The full interview with Jamie Heaslip was broadcast on The Last Word on Today FM today.