Big Interview – Laura-Jane Jones
The rugby world cup is being held in the iconic Stade de France this year. Some of the biggest talents in the men’s game will take centre stage to compete, with countries across the world watching them on the edge of their seats. Known for her work both in front and behind the camera, Laura-Jane Jones has been working as a broadcaster for professional rugby for nearly fifteen years. She has a passion for sport and is a huge advocate for women’s sports. We were lucky enough to have a chat with Laura-Jane about her career and even managed to squeeze out her predictions for this year’s Rugby World Cup. With France on home soil, will they lead with victory? Where will Wales sit in this prestigious tournament? Let’s see what Laura-Jane forecasts.
You’ve built a successful career so far… but how did you get started?
“I actually started here in the capital. I went to Cardiff Rugby after I finished school for a week’s work experience and hung around for another 3 years. I loved my time there. The club I’d grown up supporting whilst I was there, the Blues, won the Anglo-Welsh Cup, gained a place in the Heineken Cup Semi-Final and won the Challenge Cup for the first time, so it was really special to be there for all of that. After I graduated, I left Cardiff to pursue a TV career and was very lucky to land a job at Sky Sports. For just shy of a decade, I learnt how to make TV there, got to stand on the sidelines for some pretty cool games and made amazing friends. I left and went freelance in 2017 and haven’t looked back. Since striking out on my own, I’ve worked for every major broadcaster in the UK and travelled the world.”
Since starting out, how have you noticed attitudes to women in rugby changing over the years?
“I’m not sure about changing, I’ve certainly always felt very welcome in our sport, but there’s certainly more room for women and I think that’s the key. When I started out, sometimes it felt like women being there was tokenism, that’s definitely changed. I still don’t think we have total parity, but it’s definitely got and continues to get better. Last year I covered the Women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand for ITV which was immense. Women on and off the pitch owning their place. What makes me even more excited and hopeful is that at the men’s RWC this year, there’ll be plenty of women working there too.”
More women at the Rugby World Cup this year, does that mean you’ll be there too?
“Yes, definitely. I’ve got a couple of exciting gigs across the tournament which you’ll have to keep an eye out for. I’m really delighted that so many women I know and love are working on the tournament as commentators, presenters and reporters, but also in administrative roles and rugby support roles. I’m especially excited that my great friend, Joy Neville, will be the first woman to officiate at a men’s Rugby World Cup. She’ll be a Television Match Official at the tournament. I definitely think this Rugby World Cup is going to look and feel different to those that have come before!”
This is interesting! What makes you think this?
“Well, I feel like sport is moving and evolving all the time, but over the last couple of years, maybe since the pandemic, the human side of sport feels like it’s really coming to the forefront of things. Sports docs like ’The Last Dance’ and ‘Quarterback’ on Netflix have shown that people are really interested in the athletes as well as the sport. I think that’s carried through to social media and athletes are embracing their newfound platform. Rugby is changing too. For the first time ever we’re seeing names on the backs of jerseys for players. I really believe this Rugby World Cup will give us a new star who transcends the sport like the great Jonah Lomu did in 1995. Just don’t ask me who I think that individual will be!”
Before we let you go to get packed for France, what are your World Cup predictions?
“Hahaha… this is where I can make myself look like the oracle or really clueless, isn’t it? I think this young Welsh side has shades of 2011 and they’ll top their group, as we all know anything can happen when you get to the knockout stages. If I have to put my money where my mouth is, we’ve put all the focus on France and Ireland up until now, but I think my nailed on finalists are the All Blacks from what we’ve seen this summer.
… but who knows, maybe Portugal might shock us all?”