We spoke to Wales International Jamie Roberts ahead of his first Varsity rugby match

It’s going to be men against boys

“I’m mainly helping to raise standards and shouting at the lads when they’re dropping balls.” Jamie Roberts is the definition of a hard nosed rugby player. The Wales international has been capped 74 times and won Player of The Series on the 2009 Lions tour. But he is not the Wednesday night knocking your drinks over at the Union kind of hard nosed rugby player.

He was, until July, an undergraduate at Cardiff and is now doing his Masters at Cambridge. Though he demands exceptional levels of commitment and passion from himself and his teammates on the pitch, he is as personable in conversation as any Welsh rugby fan after a match at the Millennium stadium. We spoke to him about his preparation and expectations ahead of Thursday’s Varsity rugby match.

Jamie during his Cambridge debut against Worcester

Let’s talk about Varsity, specifically how it feels playing for Cambridge in comparison to your past teams?

Obviously it’s very different. Playing at Grange Road [Cambridge’s home ground] a couple of weeks after losing to South Africa in the World Cup Quarter Final was different – a pretty unique experience. It’s been great. Playing rugby at whatever level can be very similar and very different in certain aspects. The basics of the game remain the same. I suppose my job coming in is to take personal responsibility and help to raise the standards a little bit however I can.

Have you taught the Cambridge players anything specific?

Yes and no. They’re at a certain level and you can’t go beyond that. We’re looking at doing the basics better. Doing the same things on the rugby pitch and realising the consequences of what you’re trying to do three or four phases down the line. That’s something that maybe at this level of rugby isn’t coached or isn’t appreciated by the players. So trying to bring that in and improve phase play. As well as improving general game awareness and the reasons for doing things.

I think mainly it’s just helping to raise standards and shouting at the lads when they’re dropping balls, you know. It’s something you don’t want to do but ultimately when I came into training the lads were dropping balls and they used to laugh at it. It’s not about that, it’s demanding high standards of yourself regardless of where you play rugby. It’s a big game and you need to have personal pride in your basics skills and standards. I’m quite big on that and keeping the lads under pressure. You have to put pressure on yourself to keep your standards and basic skills high.

It’s a game if we do the basics right and play in the right areas on the ball then we’re in the game. So, it’s not something too complex. Doing the basics well and making the right decisions.