Roberts predicts Welsh revival
Fri, 13 Dec 2013 08:40
There's enough love for the game in Wales for it to thrive
British and Irish Lions centre Jamie Roberts believes Welsh club rugby will come through its current difficulties and emerge stronger.
Racing-Metro's Roberts is one in an ever-lengthening list of Wales internationals who have chosen to ply their trade outside their homeland.
Added to that, the four Welsh regions currently playing in the Pro12 have suggested they may try to switch to the English Premiership, in part due to the continuing impasse over European competition that could see two rival European Cup events held next season.
It has all left a feeling of doom and gloom over Welsh rugby, which was hardly lifted with media reports last week suggesting that international hooker Richard Hibbard could be the next exile, leaving Ospreys for Northampton.
Roberts already plays alongside compatriots Mike Phillips and Dan Lydiate in the French capital while the likes of James Hook and Luke Charteris play at Perpignan.
Jonathan Davies has already announced his move from Scarlets to Clermont in 2014, to join Lee Byrne, while Ian Evans is set to move to Toulon from Ospreys.
This week Leigh Halfpenny was linked with a move to either Clermont or Toulon, while George North is one of several players plying his trade in England.
To compound problems, the Welsh Rugby Union and regions failed to reach an agreement following a meeting on Wednesday.
But Roberts is remaining positive about the future of Welsh rugby at all levels.
"I'm not worried, there are enough people who love rugby in Wales for it to resolve (itself)," said Roberts, who only moved to France from Cardiff Blues this season.
"Wales is a country, a bit like France, that prides itself on rugby; it's a religion there, back in Wales, and everyone loves it and has an opinion.
"But there's enough love for the game in Wales for it to thrive. Yes, it's going through difficult times, but I'm sure the right decisions will be made by the right people ultimately for the greater good of the game in Wales."
Roberts wouldn't commit on whether he thought the Welsh regions should join the English Premiership, though.
"It's difficult, there's a lot to consider. Obviously professional sport now is about money, revenue, crowds and television deals.
"Whether the regions decide to take that route (to join the English) remains to be seen. It could bring a positive outcome or it could go the other way, you never really know until you try it."
But he added: "It's frustrating, it's above your heads as players. You just have to carry on focusing on rugby and performing on the pitch."
Despite the mass exodus of players to supposedly stronger, and certainly richer leagues, Roberts believes things are still going well in the domestic game.
"The Pro12 is quite a strong league as we saw in Europe last weekend," he said.
"The teams in the Pro12 performed very well with all the Irish teams winning, Cardiff Blues won, the Dragons won in Europe. Obviously Scarlets lost to Clermont and Ospreys lost in Castres but the representation usually does well in Europe and the league is strong."
Having been out injured for almost three months with an ankle problem, Roberts is just looking forward to getting back and being involved, starting with the European Cup return match in London against Harlequins on Saturday.
Last Saturday, Racing were given a lesson by their English opponents, going down 32-8 at their home base in Colombes.
"It feels like a bit of a new start, I got injured in my third game for the club and that was very tough," he said.
"Coming to a new club and coming to a new city, I was starting to find my feet in the team and getting into the swing of things, and then obviously to be dealt that blow was very hard.
"It's been very hard watching the boys play but the physios have done a great job and I'm just looking forward to getting back into this team and winning."
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