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Page last updated at 18:51 GMT, Thursday, 18 June 2009 19:51 UK

Roberts loving 'crazy' rugby rise

SOUTH AFRICA v LIONS
Venue: ABSA Park, Durban
Date: 20 June
Kick-off:
1400 BST (1500 local time)
Coverage: Full commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru and online Rugby Union on the BBC


Jamie Roberts
Jamie Roberts will win his first Lions Test start in Durban on Saturday.

Jamie Roberts concedes his meteoric rise to Lions starter against the world champions South Africa as "crazy."

The Wales centre is in just his second season as a full-time professional and at 22, he will be the youngest Lion to start Saturday's first Test in Durban.

Roberts's centre partnership with Brian O'Driscoll has been one of the most effective combinations on tour.

"It's crazy it has come this early for me," said Roberts. "But it has come at the right time. I'm playing well."

The Cardiff Blues centre only won the first of his 12 Wales caps during last year's RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam campaign.

And Roberts played full-back and wing before finding a home an inside centre where he will partner the great O'Driscoll in the first Test match in Durban on Saturday.

"It's pretty crazy, but brilliant at the same time,

"It was my first game at 12 out here last summer when Wales played South Africa - and here I am finding myself playing in a Lions Test on Saturday."

If Lions are going to cause a shock at ABSA Park then pupil Roberts and master O'Driscoll are major factors opposite the impressive Springboks centre pairing of Jean de Villiers and Adi Jacobs.

Brian O'Driscoll and Jamie Roberts
Brian and Jamie have built up a good partnership and they play well off each other,

Lions head coach Ian McGeechan

"Any centre will tell you O'Driscoll is world class," said Roberts.

"He's a great communicator, and training has been going really well.

"It's great to have my Wales team-mate Stephen Jones inside and Brian outside - you are talking 80 and 90-odd caps each. It's fantastic, and great for me as a young player.

"It is more or less telepathic, really. You know where world-class players are going to be on the pitch.

"It's going to be the most physical game I have played - Jean de Villiers and Adi Jacobs are world-class players in their own right.

"It is going to be a new level for us all, but I don't think we are afraid of it - we are all looking forward to it."

Wales coach Warren Gatland, in the Lions coaching backroom staff in South Africa, transformed Roberts from wing to centre and now Lions head coach Ian McGeechan is certainly reaping rewards.

"Brian and Jamie have built up a good partnership and they play well off each other," said McGeechan.

"In a game when you are going to come under Test match pressure, you're hoping they will build on the understanding they have shown as it is certainly a partnership we've been pleased with."

The 6ft 4ins Welshman has enjoyed his first Lions tour, although it will soon be back to his medical studies, with exams in August, then the final two years of a five-year course that he will spread over the next four years as he bids to become Doctor Roberts.

606: DEBATE
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"The tour has been fantastic and Saturday is going to be a career highlight," he added.

"I won't have experienced anything like it before.

"I will get the iPod on and listen to some relaxing music on the way to the ground. I always listen to The Verve's Lucky Man - it's my favourite song. It makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up."

O'Driscoll will make his first Lions Test appearance since being spear-tackled out of the 2005 New Zealand tour less than two minutes into the opening All Blacks showdown.

Four years on, O'Driscoll is back for more Test action - and Roberts will be playing alongside him, rather than just finishing his A levels.

Roberts recalled: "In 2005, I had just finished my A levels and I was travelling around Europe with my mates - guys from school. I think I watched that first Test in Paris.

"Four years before that (when O'Driscoll scored a wonder try against Australia in Brisbane), I can't remember. I was probably in kindergarten, or something!"



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Habana delivers warning to Lions
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Hayes called up into Lions squad
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Wallace and Monye start for Lions
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Injury ends Murray's Lions tour
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Hook gives Lions a fitness boost
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Howley warning to Lions' Phillips
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Brussow handed Springboks start
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Lions squad selector
07 May 09 |  Rugby Union
2009 Lions: Squad & results
09 Jul 09 |  Rugby Union


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