JPR salutes fellow rugby medic Roberts

Wales great JPR Williams believes new cap Jamie Roberts’s achievement in combining a career as a professional rugby union player with being a medical student is greater than his own.

But the legendary full-back insisted that ‘doubling up’ would ultimately benefit the 21-year-old Roberts, in his third year at the University of Wales, who makes his Test debut in Saturday’s Six Nations match against Scotland here at the Millennium Stadium.

Williams made his first international appearance back in 1969 when he was studying to become a doctor at St Mary’s College in London and went on to become an orthopaedic surgeon in Bridgend, where he completed his illustrious career as a top-class rugby player.

“In my day most of us had other jobs and it was hard enough to fit the rugby and the medicine into a week then, so I can’t imagine the dedication Jamie must have,” said Williams.

“The Wales squad has a few who have other interests – Alun-Wyn Jones is studying to be a lawyer – and it can only be good for them,” the 58-year-old, an ever-present in the British and Irish Lions teams that won Test series in New Zealand and South Africa in 1971 and 1974 respectively, added.

“The studying will give them a release from the intensity of the competition. Jamie is an impressive kid and I wish him all the best for the weekend.

“He’s got a good head on his shoulders and I don’t think he’ll look back from here,” said former Wales captain Williams, capped 55 times by his country.

Williams met up with Roberts at Wales’s team hotel on Thursday where they were promoting the Welsh Blood Service’s campaign to persuade more people to donate.

For Roberts, who only last year was a part-time rugby player and full-time student, it was a memorable encounter.

Now, after a fine seasom with Cardiff, he plans to defer his third-year exams until after the end of the Six Nations and complete the final two years of his course on a part-time basis, as Jones is doing with his law degree at Swansea University.

Roberts is set to play on the right wing against Scotland but many shrewd judges believe the bulk of his Test career will be spent at full-back, where Williams was such an influential figure during Wales’s golden era of the 1970s.

“JPR did it all in the game really didn’t he? If I get to anywhere near what he has achieved in rugby or in life in general I’ll be a happy man,” said Roberts.

“It was great to meet him and to support such a good cause and one that is so important to the medical profession.”

Sapa-AFP –

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