New signing Jamie Roberts believes it is the perfect time to become a Dragon – and has revealed how his love for the game was harnessed on the terraces at Rodney Parade.
The Wales and British & Irish Lions centre has agreed a stunning move to the region and makes a long-awaited return to Welsh rugby for the first time since 2013 with immediate effect.
And the vastly experienced 33-year-old can hardly wait to get started as he settles into his new surroundings.
“When I left Wales in 2013 to play my rugby outside my home country, I always promised myself that I’d endeavor to return and play in Wales again,” he said.
“Having had some wonderful experiences playing across three of the world’s top leagues in France, England and South Africa, I’m delighted to return to Wales to play with Dragons and compete again in the Guinness PRO14 and next season’s Champions Cup.
“I’m sincerely grateful for having this opportunity, especially given the current climate we find ourselves in.
“I’m very proud and grateful to have achieved a lot of what I set out to achieve in the game and now is a perfect time for me to help many of these young Dragons achieve theirs, as a collective and individually.”
Roberts most recent playing stint saw him impress with The Stormers in South Africa and he acknowledges that spell overseas was a wonderful experience.
“Most recently, I had a brilliant time in Cape Town with The Stormers and although it was abruptly cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic, I take forward some extremely fond memories of my time there,” he added.
“They host the British Lions next July and I’ve made sure John Dobson (Stormers head coach) knows I’d love to play in that one!”
Roberts becomes the latest new signing for Dean Ryan, following in the footsteps of Jonah Holmes, Nick Tompins and Joe Maksymiw.
And he has admitted how impressed he was by the set-up and vision for the future when he discussed the move with the Director of Dragons Rugby.
“When I sat down with Dean and looked through the Dragons squad, it was evident that there is enormous potential amongst the playing group,” he said.
“Although a handful are established internationals, a significant number of the group are not far off that level and I hope any experience I may be able to pass on can help them fulfill their potential.
“The opportunity to compete against the best Europe has to offer in the Champions Cup is exciting and I look forward to helping the region develop on the field as well as off it.
“Rugby in Wales finds itself in turbulent times, yet from crisis comes opportunity and I’m excited to help the sport win its way back to becoming the heartbeat of its people.”
And as for his new home stadium, Roberts revealed Rodney Parade already had a special place in his rugby career.
“Before playing through the junior ranks in Cardiff from the age of 15, my love for the game was born on the terraces of Rodney Parade,” he smiled.
“My Dad, Norman, has been a lifelong Newport Rugby supporter and for many years my brother and I would frequent the terraces on weekends and harness our love for the game I’ve been so fortunate to play professionally. No one would be prouder than him that I’m coming to represent the rugby supporters of Gwent.
“There has always been something very special about a packed-out Rodney Parade and it’s something I’m looking forward to experiencing first hand on the pitch this season.”
There has always been something very special about a packed-out Rodney Parade and it’s something I’m looking forward to experiencing first hand on the pitch this season...