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Rugby World Cup: God's love freeing players to express themselves, says former pro

by Will Hobbs

Former Irish professional rugby player Peter Browne had told Premier there are a number of Christians playing at the World Cup who have been encouraging each other during the competition.

Browne, who now works for Christians in Sport, has been encouraging players to remember that their identity is determined by God's love for them, rather than by the constant judgement of their performances, as they compete at rugby's biggest competition.

Part of my role is as the professional rugby worker, and that sees me looking to find support and connect guys who are professional rugby players and either professing faith or looking into what the Christian faith is. And also connect them to their faith what does it mean to be a Christian in, in the world of professional rugby."

So we see that need for guys to really understand who they are in Christ, as they go into this cauldron of high performance, as they're judged weekly, by the performance by everyone else. But actually God says, No, you're unconditionally loved, all of who you are is received from who Jesus says. It's not achieved by what you do on the pitch. So they can go out and, and our prayer is that they can enjoy the support which can as far as I can say, as a former professional, can become a burden at times, but they can enjoy and have a freedom to express themselves and to worship God with those gifts that God has given them as well."

Browne told Premier he is in touch with four individuals currently competing at the tournament in France, and know plenty more are out there.

In particular this tournament, Fijian players and coaches have been publicly vocal about playing for and through Jesus Christ.

Browne says Christians in the game have the joy of living not just to play well, but for a higher, more liberating purpose.

Often with rugby players and professionals in particular, your whole life is about performing on the pitch. But faith gives you a purpose beyond that.

So the understanding is that actually for a time I was called to be a rugby player, I was called by God, to be in the clubs, the different clubs that I was in, and to live out who God had made me within those clubs, and hopefully witnesses well, within that and worship.

In October 2018, aged 29, Browne announced his retirement from professional rugby due to  the trauma of multiple concussions. He says retirement often reveals how much a player's overall identity is tied to their career, but how, in Christ, it doesn't have to be.  

"As difficult as it as it as it was as a transition that doesn't change, I'm still called to live out who God has made me in the context he has placed me in, which just was not rugby anymore. But that transition isn't easy.

And I think there's a lot of questions of guys to go through in terms of identity and who they are because so much of what we do in our society and our culture is defined by what we do as a job.

And we mix these two things in so readily when actually they should be separate. And as a child of God, that is our, our key identifier.

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