Jamaica being in World Cup is massive for rugby league, says Jason Robinson

Former England dual-code international Jason Robinson is delving into his roots as the son of a Windrush immigrant as he helps prepare Jamaica for their World Cup baptism.

Robinson, 46, the former Wigan favourite who helped England win the Rugby Union World Cup in 2003, on Tuesday unveiled British sportswear manufacturer PlayerLayer as the team’s official kit supplier in his role as Jamaica’s operations director in the run-up to this autumn’s Rugby League World Cup in England.

The company’s fabrics are made from coffee and bamboo and Jamaican artists have used the island’s culture to produce unique, eye-catching designs.

“I tell you what, we’re not going to be missed, that’s for sure,” Robinson said. “If there’s one team that’s going to stand out in the World Cup, it’s going to be us with the kit that we’ve got.”

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Robinson is also hoping the Reggae Warriors will stand out on the pitch when they go up against New Zealand, Lebanon and Ireland in their group fixtures.

They qualified at the third attempt after beating Canada and United States in 2018 and have a training camp arranged for the end of June as well as a warm-up match against fellow newcomers Greece at Castleford in October.

“There’s jokes around Cool Runnings but I’ve played in three World Cup finals and I know the demands,” Robinson said. “We want to be as competitive as possible.

“We’ve got a real mixture of guys, playing at all different levels. There will be some guys coming over from Jamaica and it’s going to be great for seasoned campaigners like Michael Lawrence and Ashton Golding, while we’ve Dom Young over in the NRL.

“The key is to prepare well and, come the World Cup, give a good account of ourselves.

“Everybody knows Usain Bolt but not many people know about Jamaica Rugby League.

“It’s going to be massive for rugby league in general. It will bring much-needed exposure to the game and will certainly be a great platform for the players.

“We’ve just got to make sure that we do Jamaica justice, both back on the island and here in the UK.”

Jamaica forward Michael Lawrence tackles Joe Greenwood of England Knights in a test match at Headingley in 2019

Jamaica are expecting plenty of support from Yorkshire, and in particular the Chapeltown area of Leeds where Robinson was raised by his Scottish mother.

“We’ve been working hard to engage with the Caribbean community and we aim to bring colour and a festival atmosphere to the World Cup,” said Robinson, who is an official World Cup ambassador.

“I came from Chapeltown and then went on to win a rugby union World Cup. How many more kids could there be that turn out for the Rhinos or Huddersfield? There’s a lot of talent there but it’s untapped.”

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Like many of the players, Robinson is embarking on his own personal journey which he hopes will lead to a first visit to the island of his father.

“It’s an opportunity to dig deeper into our heritage,” he said. “There’s a lot of personal journeys, with people getting back in touch with their roots.

“I’m half Scottish and half Jamaican and it’s one of those areas I have to explore more.

“I have to look deeper into who I am. I have to get to Jamaica, I’ve never been, which is ridiculous.

“It’s almost like a circle, I’m using my influence to try and help Jamaica and really leave a mark on this World Cup for all the right reasons.”


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2 Comments

  1. If Jamaica can make even a medium-sized mark in Rugby League, that will get immense attention from the Jamaican diaspora which is huge in the UK and North America. It’s the ticket to growth into a whole new demographic that extends well beyond Jamaicans.

    I’ve maintained that growth of the game among Jamaica, Turkey and the Balkans need to be top priority. The UK and US by themselves are crowded sports markets where RL is a small fish in a big pond fighting an uphill battle, but in those nations RL has the potential at being a Top 3 team-sport and thereby propel the game to new heights.

    The NRL needs to create a fund to grow the game overseas. Allocate US$2 million per annum for developing economies that are already involved in the sport and see how far that takes you. They would make their investment back several fold on TV licensing deals in a few years once RL takes off locally.

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