Dr James Robson to retire from Scottish Rugby
Scottish Rugby’s Chief Medical Officer Dr James Robson MBE is to retire after more than 30 years working in the sport.
Dr James will conclude his time with Scottish Rugby at the end of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations.
Scottish Rugby will now begin a recruitment process to separately appoint a new Chief Medical Officer and Scotland Team Doctor, to cover positions held by Dr James in recent years.
A mainstay of the national team set-up for more than three decades, Dr James was first involved as a physio, then team doctor, before becoming Chief Medical Officer for Scottish Rugby in 2005.
Dr James said: “This has easily been one of the hardest decisions of my life. I have given the sport and Scottish rugby all I could over the past 30 years and am incredibly grateful for the wonderful experiences and life-long friendships it has afforded me.
“I have always wanted to do the best job I could and this role has been my life. I’ve often said caring for the players is like looking after a second family and none of this could have been possible without the support I’ve had from my own family through my wife Christine and daughters, Eleanor and Emma.
“Rugby is a fantastic sport and has given me a huge amount, which I hope I have been able to repay over the years. It is vital we continue to look after everyone who plays our great game, at every level, and I know there are many people across the rugby world working hard to ensure they do.
“I’ll certainly miss running the touchline at Murrayfield and feeling the energy off the crowd.”
In recent years his work and knowledge has been called upon to support the promotion of concussion awareness and research studies to support player welfare initiatives, both in Scotland and internationally.
He was a leading advocate of the national guidance ‘If in Doubt, Sit them Out’ launched in 2014, which has now been adopted as UK-wide policy through the latest DCMS concussion advice across all sports.
Dr James also helped develop the sport’s first Brain Health Clinic, in conjunction with the Brain Health Trust, based at Scottish Gas Murrayfield which invites former international players to have a brain health check.
Scottish Rugby inducted Dr James into its Hall of Fame in 2017 in recognition of his service to the sport and he was awarded an MBE in the 2018 New Year’s Honours.
Scottish Rugby CEO, Mark Dodson, said: “Player and people welfare have, and always will be, the motivations that make James the selfless, dedicated and personable rugby medic that he is. We will all miss him.
“His commitment to player wellbeing and safety has shone for more than 30-years at all levels of the game and his contribution to improving player welfare for generations of Scottish players has been immense.
“Scottish Rugby is hugely proud to have had James as our medical standard bearer. I would like to personally thank him for all that he has done for the game, our players and people, and wish him a happy retirement in the company of his wife Christine and his daughters Eleanor and Emma.”
Scotland Head Coach Gregor Townsend said: “On behalf of the Scotland team and management, we thank James for all his efforts, wisdom and one-liners over the years. He has made us a better team and continues to be a brilliant team doctor, loved and respected by all of us.”
“And, from a personal perspective, it will be an emotional day when James makes his final appearance as Scotland Team doctor. James was on duty when I won my first cap 30 years ago, and he was a massive help for me throughout my playing career. He has since become a trusted colleague, who has given outstanding service, guidance and support in my time as coach of the national team. We will be doing all we can to make his last tournament with the team as enjoyable and successful as possible.”
Having recently completed his eighth and final Rugby World Cup, having only missed 1999 due to medical role commitments to other Scotland teams, it is a Six Nations match which contains Dr James’ proudest moment as a medic.
In 2010, during a game in Cardiff between Wales and Scotland, winger Thom Evans suffered a complicated neck injury which James and other medics on site assessed and safely stabilised on the pitch.
Thom thankfully made a full recovery and said: “Dr James Robson is one of a kind. I will always be incredibly grateful for what he did for me that day in Cardiff in 2010. His ability and desire to always put the players wellbeing above anything else, is truly remarkable. I owe him the life I have today for his efforts and experience.
“Away from the field, he’s just a brilliant person to have around. Always bringing a positive energy and a fun camaraderie to everything he does. A cracking table tennis player too may I add!
“The SRU is very for fortunate to have him and he deserves every accolade under the sun for his contributions to Scottish Rugby.”
James has often offered counsel outside the medical sphere to hundreds of players in that time, as he put it himself recently: “You become confidant, GP, uncle, father, and confessor”.
He has decided that now is the time to hang up the boots that have for so many years patrolled touchlines with his infamous medical bag on international days.
His first involvement with Scottish Rugby came in 1991 when, as a physio, he was brought in to assist with a development tour to North America.
Stationed by chance on the long-haul flight next to a certain Doddie Weir, the new physio was starting out on a vocational journey that even he would not have envisaged all these years later.
An opportunity then came, through Scotland team doctor Donald MacLeod, for James to be involved as a physio as part of the 1991 Rugby World Cup backroom team, an experience that was both memorable and gut-wrenching – “I still feel cheated that we didn’t beat England”, James recalled on Scotland’s agonising semi-final defeat 32 years ago.
Aside from being a pillar of the Scottish rugby community ‘The Doc’ was also a regular appointment to British & Irish Lions squads, his involvement in no fewer than six tours testament to the respect he was held in across the game. The Lions’ iconic 1997 series win in South Africa is particularly etched in James’ mind because of the life-saving care he gave to England centre Will Greenwood, who suffered a serious head injury in a tour match against Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Greenwood said: “He’s just an amazing human being, and that’s the most important thing.
“In amongst Calcutta Cups, on the touchline you’d always have a laugh and a joke. There’s more to life than rugby and when you saw the Doc – when you see a really good mate – you have a little giggle, maybe nick a water bottle from the Scottish water bag, have a chat about family, and have a pint after.”