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'Excited': Jamie Roberts opens up on Super Rugby move to Waratahs

By Jack O'Rourke
(Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Jamie Roberts didn’t fly to the other side of the world just to pass on knowledge and mentor young players. The Wales and British and Irish Lions centre is ready to compete and make his presence known at the NSW Waratahs.

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The 35-year old has declared himself fit and firing for the Waratahs’ 2022 season as the team looks to rebuild after a disappointing campaign last year. 

“That’s one thing that’s been beneficial, I’m mid-season,” Roberts told media on Thursday, two days after arriving in Sydney.

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“These lads are obviously at the latter end of a pre-season, but I come in match fit and match ready. It’s just about getting over the jetlag, getting my legs moving and I’ll be ready to go. 

“I will see if coach wants to involve me over the next few weeks. I am certainly under no illusions it’s going to be a hell of a job for me to break into this side, there’s a lot of quality, but that’s what I’m striving to do.”

Roberts brings with him a wealth of experience, playing at top clubs in Europe with the likes of Cardiff, Racing 92, Harlequins and Bath before returning to Wales to play for the Dragons. 

He has also had a taste of Super Rugby in 2020 during his time at the Stormers. 

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His hard-edged running and staunch defence made him a mainstay in the Welsh side for the better part of a decade, but Roberts says he is looking forward to the challenge of adapting his game to a different style. 

“It’s a different game. It’s a faster track, the hand speed of the players, the skillset of the players is different,” he said.

“You play a lot in the northern hemisphere, it’s often on heavier pitches, certainly during this period of the year. It’s quite attritional, a lot of kick-chase, the ball can be quite greasy and it’s hard to play to width. 

“What I’m fully expecting here is similar to what I experienced in South Africa. That is, the teams put width on the ball, it’s faster, it’s a quicker way of playing the game.

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“It’s a chance for me to keep learning and developing myself as a player, and challenging my skillset because of the way I’ve played throughout my career.”

Roberts is no stranger to Australian shores, first touring with his school, Ysgol Gyfun Glantaf, and later as a member of the 2013 British and Irish Lions squad, which claimed a famous series win on Australian soil.

He also has an Australian wife Nicole and a young son Tomos, and the plan has always been to settle in Sydney. The decision to play Super Rugby came about following a conversation with Waratahs coach Darren Coleman.

“We spoke last year. I was always going to end up in Sydney at some point, whether that was going to be during my career or a life after [rugby]. My partner’s obviously from Manly,” Roberts said.

“I think he got in touch just before Christmas because they had a few injuries in the midfield. I guess it went from there.

“I sat down with my partner, I knew she was coming out here on Boxing Day. It’s been something she’s been very keen on, being around that support network in Manly, and all her good friends from growing up are having children.

“We are due our second [child] in mid-march, and it was something she really wanted.

“Obviously, I had to ask the Dragons back home to leave my contract halfway through the season, which was difficult.

“It was challenging, but I believe it was the right decision, not just for my family but for my career as well. I am excited to come and play Super Rugby.”

His first impression of the Waratahs organisation has him excited and recognises the team is in the midst of building something special. He sees this Australian sojourn as a way to challenge himself and impart knowledge of the next generation of superstars. 

“Something I was chatting to Darren Coleman about, and one of the reasons he’s come back to take this job, is the amount of growth potential is significant.

“I think anyone, certainly in the coaching world – I’m not a coach – would want to work with that because of the amount of growth potential that’s there.

“I put myself in that same bracket, as a senior player, as a guy with a lot of experience in the game, to play with a group like that is going to be awesome.

“One, because there’s nothing like the exuberance of youth to motivate me as a bit an older player, but two, to pass on that wealth of knowledge, and hopefully help a lot of these young players to realise their potential and their growth in the game.”

There’s another challenge he wants to take on while he is here in Australia.

“I’m not leaving Australia without being able to learn to surf.”

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