Wales’ centre of attention Jamie Roberts will return to Test rugby today after what he describes as “a very long six months”.
Roberts lines up against Millennium Stadium opponents Argentina, ending a hectic week that saw him celebrate his 26th birthday on the same day Cardiff Blues announced he had rejected a deal to remain with them next season.
While Roberts’ club rugby future now looks certain to be in France with wealthy Parisians Racing Metro, his immediate aims revolve around the international arena.
The midfield powerhouse has not played for Wales since they clinched a second RBS Six Nations title and Grand Slam of Warren Gatland’s coaching reign last March. A knee injury, subsequent surgery and rehabilitation meant Roberts missed the three-Test summer tour to Australia, when Wales lost two games by a combined margin of three points.
“When you miss a campaign, a summer tour, it makes you appreciate it more and more. I can’t wait for Saturday,” Roberts said. “It has been a very long six months. My last memories I have in a red shirt are of walking around the pitch after the France game with the Six Nations trophy.
“Anyone who has had a cruciate knee reconstruction will tell you they are not very nice. You go to hell and back with the rehabilitation. It’s tough.”
Roberts will win his 45th cap in a side shorn of injured quartet Jonathan Davies, Adam Jones, Dan Lydiate and Ryan Jones, while interim head coach Rob Howley has opted to put France-based stars Mike Phillips and James Hook on the bench.
Wales: L Halfpenny (Cardiff); A Cuthbert (Cardiff), S Williams (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), G North (Scarlets); R Priestland (Scarlets), T Knoyle (Scarlets); G Jenkins (Toulon), M Rees (Scarlets), A Jarvis (Ospreys), A-W Jones (Ospreys), I Evans (Ospreys), J Turnbull (Scarlets), S Warburton (Cardiff, capt), T Faletau (Dragons). Subs: R Hibbard (Ospreys), R Bevington (Ospreys), P James (Bath), R McCusker (Scarlets), J Tipuric (Ospreys), M Phillips (Bayonne), J Hook (Perpignan), L Williams (Scarlets).
Argentina: J M Hernandez; G Camacho, G Tiesi, F Contepomi, J Imhoff; N Sanchez, M Landajo; M Ayerza, E Guinazu, J Figallo, M Carizza, J F Cabello, L Senatore, J M Leguizamon, J M Fernandez Lobbe (capt). Subs: A Creevy, B Posiglioni, J Gomez, T Vallejos, T Leonardi, N Vergallo, H Agulla, J Tuculet..
Referee: R Poite (Fra).