'I'm going to have to adapt': Jamie Roberts gearing up for 'different game'
Jamie Roberts expects his 35-year-old legs to be asked new questions in a cameo for the NSW Waratahs this season.
Nine years after the British and Irish Lions star scored against the Wallabies in their final Sydney test, the Welsh centre will call the city home.
His shock mid-season departure from the Dragons comes with his Sydney-born wife expecting their second child.
Roberts will have his hands full there, while he also wants to learn how to surf.
But after dominating Europe’s heavier tracks with Harlequins, Bath and the Dragons, perhaps his greatest test will be adapting to the faster style of rugby and contributing to a team that lost every game last season.
“It’s a different game; faster track, hand speed of the players, the skill-set,” Roberts, who got a brief taste of Super Rugby in a shortened 2020 stint with Cape Town’s Stormers, said.
“Northern Hemisphere [rugby], it’s on heavier pitches, quite attritional, a lot of kick-chase, the ball can be greasy.
“What I’m fully expecting here is like South Africa, width on the ball, faster, quicker way of playing.
“I feel like I’m winning collisions and keeping up with the pace of the game, but I’m going to have to adapt quickly.”
Roberts played the last of his 94 Tests in 2017 and now has the chance to nurture a midfield that boasts freshly-capped Wallabies centres Izaia Perese and Lalakai Foketi.
And he’s aware of the impact he can make after new coach Darren Coleman sounded him out following injuries to fellow midfielders Joey Walton and Mosese Tuipulotu.
“You want lads striving to get into the team, so be that guy, be a good team man,” he said.
“There’s a lot of young players here and … I probably learned more from the senior players by my side than coaches in my youth.
“When you get older you realise that job’s yours.”
Match-fit and injury-free, Roberts could get the ultimate Australian welcome if he plays against the Reds in a trial game in the far-flung Queensland town of Roma next weekend.
Round 1 pits the Waratahs against newcomers Fijian Drua at CommBank Stadium on February 18.
“The coach would want to work with the amount of potential that’s there and to play with a group like that is going to be awesome,” he said.
– Murray Wenzel
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