Jamie Roberts: Wales centre signs for Dragons

Jamie Roberts has already begun training with his new Dragons team-mates
Jamie Roberts has wasted no time getting to know his new Dragons team-mates

Wales centre Jamie Roberts has signed for Dragons, returning to Welsh regional rugby after seven years away.

Roberts returned home in April from his short stint with the Stormers in South Africa amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The 33-year-old has already begun training with his Dragons team-mates.

"When I left Wales in 2013 to play my rugby outside my home country, I always promised myself that I'd endeavour to return and play in Wales again," said Roberts.

The timing of Roberts' signing, which is believed to be a one-year deal, will cause consternation with Cardiff Blues, Ospreys and Scarlets, with all four regions currently discussing pay cuts with their players.

It remains to be seen when the centre will play his first game for Dragons, with the region resuming the Pro14 campaign away at Ospreys on 23 August and then hosting Scarlets six days later.

Roberts left Cardiff Blues in 2013 for Racing 92 in France and has since played for Harlequins and Bath in England, as well as the Stormers.

He won the last of his 94 Wales caps in November 2017 and remains available for Test selection. Roberts also won three caps for the British and Irish Lions during the 2009 and 2013 tours.

Dragons had been in the market for former Leinster centre Joe Tomane, but the move for the Australian international stalled.

"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 the Dragons," said Roberts.

"I'm grateful for having this opportunity, especially given the current climate we find ourselves in.

"I'm proud and grateful to have achieved a lot of what I set out to in the game and now is a perfect time for me to help many of these young Dragons achieve theirs.

"When I sat down with Dean [Ryan, Dragons director of rugby] and looked through the squad, it was evident there is enormous potential among the playing group.

"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 fulfil their potential."

Champions Cup lure

Jamie Roberts made his Stormers debut against the Hurricanes in February 2020
Jamie Roberts made his Stormers debut against the Hurricanes in February 2020

Dragons are also in line to play in the Champions Cup next season, with Europe's top-tier tournament set to be expanded to 24 teams.

"The opportunity to compete against the best Europe has to offer in the Champions Cup is exciting," said Roberts.

"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.

"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.

"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.

Roberts joins fellow Wales centre Nick Tompkins, who has signed for a year on loan from Saracens, while another international back, Jonah Holmes, has also arrived at Rodney Parade after leaving Leicester.

Wales-qualified lock Joe Maksymiw has also joined from Connacht, but international second-row Cory Hill has left for Cardiff Blues.

"It's great news we are bringing someone of Jamie's quality to the region and we know he will make an immediate impact," said Ryan.

"He remains an ambitious and driven player and is looking forward to coming into our environment.

"To have his experience on the pitch will be a great addition to us and he will be an excellent mentor for the younger players."

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