Roberts raising the bar

Jamie Roberts is hoping his burgeoning partnership with Brian O’Driscoll flourishes over the coming weeks.

Roberts completed two consecutive encounters with his Man of the Match display against the Golden Lions, with the midfield pairing especially impressive. Injuries to Riki Flutey and Keith Earls gave O’Driscoll and Roberts the opportunity and they tore shreds into the suspect hosts’ defence.

The 22-year-old Welshman has only made the permanent transition to No 12 in the last year, but he is happy with the way things are going as he aims to claim a Test berth alongside BOD.

‘The move is going alright, I’m getting used to it,’ said Roberts. ‘It’s pretty special playing with Brian. I’m going to give away his age [30], but I remember watching Brian as a boy on those 2001 and 2005 tours!

‘He’s quite old really but it’s an honour to play next to him,’ Roberts said with a blushing O’Driscoll hanging his head.

The captain on the night did return the compliment to his youthful colleague. Although they have spent limited time together, it was impressive how they  instinctively ran off one another.

‘We haven’t trained together a huge amount,’ said O’Driscoll. ‘But Jamie runs great support lines and that’s why he got two tries today. I look forward to trying to develop that relationship and put pressure on all the other candidates,’ which now includes late call-up Gordon D’Arcy.

Coach Ian McGeechan was visibly pleased with the way this combination had gone in only their first outing together. 

‘Jamie says he wants to play every four days, so he’ll get a run on Sunday again,’ McGeechan joked in reference to Roberts’s heavy initial workload. ‘Our backs started really well. Our centres were very good and they both used the space allowed. Their running off the ball was also impressive.’

The Lions mentor pulled off both the centres before the hour mark but said no one would be kept in cotton wool.

‘I got a rollicking from Brian for that,’ McGeechan admitted regarding O’Driscoll’s head knock that forced him from the field. ‘We need to keep them playing so they won’t be rested unnecessarily. You don’t want to overplay them, but everyone needs to add to their game and they need to be playing and training as much as possible.’

Roberts also stated they realised it was a weak effort from the hosts on Wednesday and that stagnation can’t be afforded.

‘Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves,’ he said. ‘When we watch the video, there will be lots to work on. It’s up to the guys on Saturday to raise the bar further.’

By Grant Ball, in Johannesburg