Wales centre Jamie Roberts urges World Rugby to safeguard the Lions
Published 05/10/2016 | 22:16
Wales centre Jamie Roberts has urged rugby's power brokers to enshrine the British and Irish Lions' place in any revised global schedule.
The Harlequins battering-ram already has two Lions tours under his belt and will hope to play his way into next summer's squad that will head to New Zealand.
Rugby's global fixture cycle is under greater scrutiny than ever with no Test matches agreed beyond World Cup 2019 and both hemispheres holding conflicting ideas about how to solve fixture congestion and improve player welfare.
Roberts has called on governing body World Rugby and the game's other top administrators to ensure the Lions does not suffer among those negotiations.
"I really hope the Lions can continue to have the right space in the calendar," said Roberts.
"It's unique in rugby and in world sport, where you have four countries coming together who usually battle against each other.
"And not just for the players but for the fans. To travel to the southern hemisphere and to support a team which only exists every four years, there's not too much like that in world sport, let alone rugby.
"And to see that disappear would be extremely sad.
"So from my point of view I've been very, very grateful to have had the privilege and the honour of being on a Lions tour and experiencing that as a player.
"To see that not be one of the big, big things in the rugby calendar would be very, very sad."
The Lions will endure a punishing 10-match schedule in New Zealand next summer, with the first tour match on June 3 just a week after the Aviva Premiership final.
However, Roberts believes every player in the mix to tour next summer will set aside any complaints about a gruelling season in order to chase a starting Test jersey with the Lions.
"As much as people talk about cramming 10 games into five or six weeks, it's that special, the Lions, and we're not talking about something that happens every season," said Roberts.
"It's an extremely special and privileged place to be. And regardless of how much your body's hurting after a long and tough season, you're ready.
"You're ready to really put your body on the line.
"Players from the host nations, they only get the chance to play the Lions every 12 years. So it's very easy to appreciate too just how big it is for them as well.
"They know playing against the Lions is a huge privilege as well, so long, long may it continue."
England's new team manager Richard Hill has confirmed he will continue to mentor some of the nation's top junior talent despite his new role with Eddie Jones' senior set-up.
"I have a small group of players I mentor, and my role within the pathway continues," said the 2003 World Cup winner.
"I act as a support coach with the age grades, as and what each age grade wants. That has been evolving through my two plus years in the pathway."
:: Jamie Roberts and Richard Hill were speaking for Robert Walters at the launch of their British and Irish Lions sponsorship. For more information visit www.robertwalters.co.uk