As the first Lions game approaches, we continue our series of Player Profiles of key players that we believe will feature in South Africa.
Height: 6′ 4″
Date of Birth: November 8th, 1986
Birthplace: Newport, Wales
Wales under Warren Gatland have been epitomised by their policy of selecting their internationals based on their club form. It was therefore of no surprise that in Wales’ 2008 Grand Slam winning team, a certain 21 year old made his debut on the wing against Scotland. Since then, it’s been a non-stop ride for Jamie Roberts, which has seen him cement his place in the Wales matchday 22 and help Cardiff to the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup.
Roberts was educated at Ysgol Gyfun Glantaf and studied medicine full time at the University of Wales, Cardiff from 2005 to 2007, and he now combines his studies with training at the Cardiff Blues.
In an impressive first season for Cardiff in 2005-06 he scored five tries in 11 games and was a regular for Wales’ under-21s before injury curtailed his campaign. It’s Roberts’ size (at 107kg he wouldn’t be out of place in the back row) and adaptability that have singled him out as one of Wales’ most promising prospects in the last 12 months. In his relatively short international career he has played at win and full-back, as well as at both inside and outside centre.
He scored his first try for Wales in a defeat against South Africa in June 2008 whilst playing on the wing and in the next game in the tour to South Africa he was surprisingly selected at inside centre (despite playing the majority of his rugby for the Blues in the back three).
His size and ability to cross the gain line at 12 led to Gatland continuing the experiment during the course of the Autumn Internationals – plus his first choice 12, Gavin Henson was in the middle of yet another absence due to injury. It was in the match against Australia (which Wales went on to win) that Roberts’ talent (and head) came to the fore. A collision with the Wallabies skipper Stirling Mortlock in the 2nd minute of the game led to Roberts sustaining a fractured skull. However, unlike Mortlock, who left the field immediately, Roberts initially played on and was crucial in the build-up to Shane Williams’ try, but was later replaced by Andrew Bishop in the 18th minute.
Roberts returned to the Blues set-up 2 months later and played an instrumental role in the 14-man Blues away victory to Gloucester which saw the Blues become the only team to maintain a 100% group stage record in the Heineken Cup.
His Heineken Cup form upon his return from injury, as well as his superb form in the Summer and Autumn internationals led to the resumption of his duties in the 12 channel during the 2009 Six Nations, but the return to fitness of Gavin Henson, and the superb effort of Joe Worsley’s man marking of Roberts meant that Roberts wore the 22 shirt for the final game of the Six Nations.
Roberts’ impressive performance leading Cardiff’s comeback in the Heineken Cup semi-final was timed superbly, and must have played a part in Ian McGeechan’s decision to include him in the Lions squad. Jamie Roberts should look forward to the hard pitches of Bloemfontein and the High Veldt this summer, and the young trainee doctor could well come back a seasoned Lion.