Jamie Heaslip has criticised the controversial plans for the introduction of a World Rugby League, citing player welfare and the future of club rugby as two major concerns.
As a representative for the International Rugby Players Association, Heaslip sits on World Rugby’s Rugby Committee and will be attending a meeting of the committee in Dublin on Tuesday.
Heaslip told Today FM’s The Last Word: “They (World Rugby) 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.”
He continued: “If you establish this league, you are challenging that. Which is a big worry for me personally, but really the player welfare is the biggest issue. The players
association haven’t really been involved in this process, they say they have but they’ve gone off and done what they’ve done without bringing players along every single step of the journey.
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: “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 the show in Thomond Park) for 2-and-a-half hours in the car and I struggled to get out of the car. The player gets no reward.”
The former Lions’ star added: “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.”
On the issue of promotion from Tier 2 to Tier 1, Heaslip told host Matt Cooper: “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?”