As much as he loves life in Cardiff, Jamie Roberts admits it’s going to be tough leaving Australia behind when he heads home with his family later this month. The Wales and Lions center will be bidding farewell to his beach-side base in Manly after completing his stint with the Waratahs in Super Rugby.
It has, he says, been an “awesome chapter” in a career story that has taken in so many great locations over the years, including the likes of Paris, Bath, London, Cambridge and Cape Town. It’s also been the perfect setting for him and his Aussie fiancée Nicole Ramson as young parents, with Nicole having given birth to their second child, daughter Elodie May, in March. With son Tomos Rhys just 16 months old, the couple have their hands full, but their stay in the Sydney suburbs has been a time in their lives they will always cherish.
Read next:Rugby star breaks down in tears after what Stormers team-mates did for him in dressing room
“It’s been unreal. I find myself using that word all the time, because the lads all use it every day! It honestly has been an incredible five months,” says Roberts.
“We are very lucky with our set up in Manly. Nicole’s parents have a place here just off the beach. It’s an amazing lifestyle with young children. I have met so many ex-pats out here who maybe came over for a month or two and haven’t left. You are on the beach, the climate is fantastic.
“Manly is such a cool spot. You can jump on the ferry and it’s 20 minutes into the city if you want the hustle and bustle or you can escape to a nice town on a fantastic beach. I have absolutely loved it. It’s just an awesome lifestyle.
“It’s going to be difficult to leave. We are coming home a week Saturday, so we are just trying to make the most of our last week or so here as a family before we head back. I think Nicole is struggling to envisage leaving. We have loved our time here.”
So might there be a pull to return to live Down Under in the future?
“It is a tricky one. I gave myself that headache when I proposed to an Australian girl! I made that decision fully aware of the headache it would give us, but it’s a nice headache to have,” he said.
“The lifestyle here for young children is just unbelievable and it’s going to be challenging moving home. Look, I love it back in Cardiff, but it’s going to be a bit different. We are definitely going to miss Australia. It’s been an unbelievable time.
“Certainly when the kids get to school age, it’s a decision we are going to have to make in terms of where we drop anchor. We are both going into it with an open mind and we will see where we end up. I guess a lot of it depends on what I end up doing after playing and what sort of career I go into. We will see.
“I think the dream scenario would be being able to bounce between them both. I know Nicole’s parents did that when their kids were growing up. Nicole spent junior school in one place and high school in another. So I guess there’s nothing stopping us having the best of both worlds. It is a headache, but certainly a nice headache to have.”
Roberts headed out to New South Wales in February, having been released by the Dragons in order to take up the opportunity with the Waratahs. He has figured in all but a couple of their Super Rugby Pacific matches, primarily bringing his experience to bear off the bench.
“It’s been very enjoyable. The standard of coaching is fantastic and all the players are hungry and want to win. There is a real energy about rugby in Australia now, coming off a tough couple of years with Covid. You’ve also had the announcement of the Lions tour in 2025 and the World Cups in 2027 and 2029. They have got a wonderful couple of years now to really generate interest in rugby union because it battles so hard with other sports out here.
“In Melbourne, Aussie Rules is everything, in New South Wales rugby league is huge and you’ve got a battle with league in Queensland as well. Trying to get kids into union is the biggest challenge.”
The Waratahs made it through to the quarter-finals of Super Rugby, only to lose to Warren Gatland and Son, with fly-half Bryn landing six shots at goal in a 39-15 victory for his dad’s Chiefs, who had also won the group match between the two sides.
“It was good to catch up with Gats,” said Roberts. “We had a nice bottle of red with him and Bryn after the first game, so that was good to kind of reminisce and chew the fat.
“It was great. We had a good chat about the past. He was my only Test coach. I played all my international rugby under Warren. It was good to see Bryn doing well too. I remember him as a young lad coming into training and having a kick around with the boys. Now he’s pulling the strings at 10 for the Chiefs. It’s great to see how he’s matured as a player
“It was good to lock horns with them. Unfortunately they beat us twice!
“We were obviously disappointed to lose in the play-off, but compared to where the team was last year we have made huge strides. It’s been great, an awesome chapter in my career. I definitely did the right thing coming out.”
As for the rugby, just how Super was that?
“The game is different here. It’s definitely higher intensity, it’s faster. I think the power and pace in the game is higher than back home,” says the 94-cap centre.
“If I was to pick out one thing that’s different, it’s just attitude to risk. It’s attitude in terms of off-loading and playing from your own half. Back home, it’s often quite conservative and the most conservative teams often do well. If you look at who is in the Premiership final, Saracens and Leicester, they won’t take much risk in their own half. They won’t chuck the ball around and risk getting turned over.
“They take risk out of the game, whereas, down here, the attitude to risk is tilted the other way. They will actually have a crack. If you have the courage to pull those sort of thongs off, you can score some great tries.” and create some great rugby.”
After returning to Cardiff next week, Roberts won’t be home for too long before he flies out to South Africa to be part of the Sky Sports commentary team for Wales’ three-Test series against the Springboks.
“I am looking forward to getting stuck into some broadcasting work out there and seeing how Wales can bounce back after the Six Nations. I think there is a lot of talent in that squad. The lads will be gutted with the Six Nations and how it is finished, but they are now at the start of a finish strait that culminates in the World Cup.
“When you are a summer out from the World Cup, something kicks in, both in your mind and the fire in your belly, knowing full well that this is the lead in. There’s nothing that sharpens the mind like a Test series in South Africa You are playing the world champions in their back yard.All the lads will have seen the squad pick the ‘Boks, it’s extremely strong.
“So it’s sink or swim for the lads, under that sort of pressure, coming off the back off a disappointing Six Nations campaign. I’ve been there myself before and the summer is a chance for redemption really for these boys. There is nowhere better to do that than against the Springboks and the challenge they bring. I would be buzzing if I was a Welsh rugby player going on that plane, going out there and giving it everything.
“There will be a lot of people not expecting them to win out there, but I think they have got a great opportunity. The first Test is huge, it’s at altitude in Loftus so that’s going to bring a challenge in itself. They will have a decent time together to prepare and hopefully that will stand them in good stead.”
As for what next for the 35-year-old Roberts after the tour, well he is undecided on his playing future. But, for now, as his time Down Under comes to an end, he is able to reflect with real satisfaction on yet another memorable chapter in his remarkable rugby life story.