Wales star Jamie Roberts hopes to sample more of what he describes as “the ultimate” rugby union experience later this year.
The powerhouse centre is regarded by most pundits as a shoe-in selection for the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia during June and July.
Lions head coach Warren Gatland will not announce his squad until the end of next month, but Roberts and Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll are already being widely tipped as the potential Test midfield partnership.
If that happens, it would reunite them four years after they started the first and second Tests against South Africa in Durban and Pretoria, with Roberts going on to be named Lions player of the series.
It took the 26-year-old’s career to a new level, and now with 53 Wales caps under his belt, he could once again be a key weapon for the Lions as they target a first Test series triumph anywhere since 1997.
“It [the 2009 tour] was a huge stepping stone in my career, and I look back on it with very fond memories. It was certainly the best tour I have ever been on as a player,” Roberts said.
“To play on that stage is the ultimate as a rugby player. It doesn’t get any better.
“To make friends on tour with guys from other countries, guys you have grown accustomed to playing against, and seeing four sets of fans come together is a special experience.
“My old man went out in 2009 and made a lot of friends from England, Scotland and Ireland. It’s unique in that way for players and fans.”
With this season’s RBS 6 Nations Championship now over, Lions selection will dominate rugby’s agenda. Gatland looks set to unveil his tour party just a few days after the Heineken Cup semi-finals take place on April 27/28.
Roberts, his Wales centre colleague Jonathan Davies, O’Driscoll and England’s Manu Tuilagi are widely expected to fill the centre berths.
“I think every player will tell you that the Lions has been in the back of their minds since the start of the season,” Roberts said.
“It’s there, it is itching away in the back of your head, and it is now within touching distance. Everyone has a chance to stake their claim.
“All you can do is go out and perform on the pitch every week, giving your all. If that’s good enough then great, if it’s not good enough then that is the way it is.
“It is up to the coach who he wants to select, at the end of the day, and what sort of players he wants to take on tour.
“The only thing you can do is perform for the 80 minutes, do your preparation in the week and make sure everything is right, ready to go.
“The 80 minutes is that window you get to prove to people what you are about.
“I train very hard, I work on my game and I go out and give everything during the 80 minutes on the weekend. That’s all I can do.”
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