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Page last updated at 13:02 GMT, Thursday, 28 May 2009 14:02 UK

Earls partnership excites Roberts

Jamie Roberts
Roberts is looking a strong contender for a Test spot at centre

Jamie Roberts is looking forward to joining fellow Lions debutant Keith Earls against a Royal XV on Saturday as he launches his bid for a Test place.

"[Ireland's] Earls is such a talented player, he's absolutely lightning - I didn't realise how quick he was until training this week," said the Welshman.

"It's a chance to stake a Test claim, we'll all be chomping at the bit."

Roberts, 22, is one of seven Welshmen in the team for the tour opener in Rustenburg, three more on the bench.

Lee Byrne, Shane Williams, Matthew Rees, Adam Jones, Martyn Williams and Andy Powell also start along with the Ospreys' Ireland three-quarter Tommy Bowe, while Alun Wyn Jones, Mike Phillips and Stephen Jones are replacements.

"It'll help to have so many Welshmen around, we know so much about each other's games," said Blues centre Roberts.

"It will be tough in the altitude and heat, but we've been training hard and are looking forward to it.

"We've done quite a lot of analysis on their key individuals, but there's only so much you can do - it's about how we play as a team."

Roberts, who won the first of his 12 caps in last year's Six Nations and has since faced South Africa three times, was seen as a strong pre-tour contender for the inside-centre berth.

His imposing 6ft 3in, 16st 11lb frame has caused the Springboks problems in the past, and he could form a formidable midfield partnership with Brian O'Driscoll.

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But Roberts will need to make an initial impression against the Royal XV, with Earls and Riki Flutey strong contenders for centre spots.

Lions coach Ian McGeechan says he is eagerly awaiting a first look at the pride of 2009.

"I think it is really exciting we have a lot of players making their debuts," said McGeechan.

"I remember my debut for the Lions against Western Transvaal in 1974, and it is a career highlight.

"For young men such as Keith Earls and Jamie Roberts it will be a day to remember and they will be thrilled to get an early taste of match action on the tour.

"While we have a lot of players making their Lions debuts, there is a huge amount of international experience in the team.

"The average age is 28 and that reflects the maturity we have in the squad."



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see also
Earls given nod for Lions opener
28 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Lions opponents name starting XV
26 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Springboks fail to impress in win
27 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Martyn Williams column
26 May 09 |  Rugby Union
2009 Lions: Squad & results
09 Jul 09 |  Rugby Union
Lions in South Africa
09 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
Lions squad selector
07 May 09 |  Rugby Union
History of the Lions
02 May 08 |  Rugby Union
Lions history in pictures
21 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Scrum V's rugby history
11 Aug 07 |  Welsh
Mighty Boks: South African rugby
01 Oct 08 |  Rugby Union
Country profile: South Africa
21 Jun 11 |  Country profiles
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales


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