British & Irish Lions
Robson calls for Lions to be protected
July 4, 2009
James Robson has called for players to be better looked after © Getty Images
British & Irish Lions doctor James Robson has called for rugby players to concentrate more on their skills and less on bulking up in the gym after picking through the wreckage of the most physical and injury-ravaged Test series that he has experienced.
In his fifth tour as doctor, Robson saw five players hospitalised following the tourists' second-Test loss to the Springboks in Pretoria.
"I would have to say this has been the most physical tour, the most physical Test matches I have been involved in," said Robson. "I think we are reaching a level where the players have got too big for their skill levels. I think they have become a little too muscle-bound and too bulky.
"I think you may see changes in the physical nature of the player that brings them back a little - I hope so - in order to speed up the game and introduce a higher level of skill."
Robson hoped that the Lions will be granted a longer preparation period on future tours, not only to build their on-field prowess but also to ensure that they could be properly cared for by the medical staff.
"We started with the proposition nobody would come on tour that was unfit. I hope that is the way forward," said Robson. "I hope that in the future the Lions will get a little more lead-in time because the time we had for preparation with the players - and the data we collected - allowed us to develop programmes of rehabilitation and hopefully that helps us to keep players on tour for longer."
Robson also believes that international players should have their time more stringently managed during the season, in a similar manner to that experienced by England players under guidelines agreed by the RFU and Premeir Rugby, and also for the tour to be extended in order to allow greater recovery time for players.
"I do have concerns going forward about the number of matches we do subject our players to in the northern hemisphere," said Robson. "I hope welfare will become a bigger part of player management. That is a personal view but it is a view I have expressed after every Lions tour.
"I don't necessarily think a compacted period is a detriment to the players if over the year they have less games. Personally I would like a slightly longer tour with less frequent games. Maybe it should be eight games over eight weeks."