Wales star Jamie Roberts says he is “absolutely certain” that the time has come for him to sample a new rugby environment.
Roberts is poised to join his international colleagues Mike Phillips, James Hook, Gethin Jenkins and Luke Charteris in France next season after rejecting a new deal from Cardiff Blues.
Although Roberts’ destination next term has yet to be announced, it is understood that it will be wealthy Parisians Racing Metro, whose most recent signing was former Bath and England back Olly Barkley.
The Welsh Rugby Union last night issued a statement on 26-year-old Roberts’ behalf ahead of his return to Test rugby against Argentina this weekend after recovering from knee surgery. And Roberts has already been reminded of the need to secure release for key Wales training camps when he starts a lucrative club career across the Channel. The France-based quartet missed Wales’ critical pre-autumn training stint in Poland last week due to club commitments.
Toulon prop Jenkins still starts against Argentina tomorrow, but Phillips and Hook are on the bench and Charteris plays for Perpignan this week-end after a deal was struck between them and the WRU that will see him freed to face Australia on 1 December.
Roberts said: “I am proud of what I have achieved so far in my rugby playing career and remain determined to continue to aspire to win international honours for Wales. This has been an extremely difficult decision, but I am absolutely certain it is the correct time for me to enter a new stage of my career.”
“It is obviously a difficult scenario for us,” Wales skills coach Neil Jenkins said. “We want our best players playing in Wales as often as possible.”