Wales and Lions centre Jamie Roberts is taking a well-earned rest after a bruising season but he took time to catch up with RW about the best midfielders he’s played with, or against

Jamie Roberts

Dapper: Jamie Roberts at T.M.Lewin

Since making his debut as a wing in 2008, Jamie Roberts has gone on to play in 63 Tests for Wales and tour with the Lions on two occasions. In that time he has faced his fair share of classy midfielders who have continued to set the standard for midfield play.

So who does Racing Metro’s current No 12 feel is the finest of them all. RW caught up with him, replete with fresh battle wounds, in London, to pick his brains…

Best at the contact area: Brian O’Driscoll

“Brian has transformed the role of the centre into that of an extra backrow. If you watch him play, he makes a tackle and then he’s straight back up on his feet, or jackaling for the ball. He is also so important because he gets turnovers in a way Gethin Jenkins does for Wales. He has a low centre of gravity and it’s clear he has worked very hard on that part of his game. There’s nothing flashy about Brian, he rarely misses tackles and put the graft in. His vast experience in his latter years bought him an extra second on the pitch and he used it adroitly. A lot of us have learnt from the way he plays and he will be a massive miss on the international scene.”

Best playmaker: Matt Giteau

“I’ve had the privilege of playing against Matt a few times, I think he’s one of the greatest 12’s playing in world rugby, either at a club or for the Wallabies. He’s completely different to the likes of myself of myself, Mathieu Bastareaud, Stirling Mortlock or Ma’a Nonu. He’s more of a second five eighth who’s a great distributor of the ball. He’s very quick and very agile and I like the way he challenges the line and gives an inside show and go. Looking at his game, you can tell he’s played lots of sports growing up, he has a varied skill-set, an awareness of space and a decent kicking game, as we saw in the Heineken Cup final. In fact, I can’t believe Australia don’t pick him, I know they have their policy on overseas players but I think he’s a very special player indeed.”

Best linebreaker: Jonathan Davies

“A key part of being a midfielder is being able to break the line, whether you do that by attacking the inside shoulder, or with your power game. The outside break is a massive attacking tool of being a centre. My midfield partner Foxy has developed that to an art. He’s always had the ability to beat players on the outside, when you put him away on the outside arc. Like Brian, he has that low centre of gravity and a hammer-fend. You know when you play with him, or against him, that he’ll make a line break every game so you’ve got to stay on his shoulder. He’s evolved since the Lions tour, and to know he was picked as the best of the best gave him more confidence and belief. He’s now become an integral part of the Wales set-up and trusty left peg gives an added weapon. I look forward to seeing him in France. I think he’ll do very well in Clermont.”

Best for power: Ma’a Nonu

“When I was growing up, Ma’a Nonu was one of those players, who at 23 or 24,  was scary. In international rugby it’s all about winning collisions and getting on the front foot, which is what he gave New Zealand in his first 30 or 40 caps. It was about giving him space, putting him on inside shoulders. A lot of what I saw in myself was the game he played. My role in the team was getting a flow to the attack. He has improved his kicking, passing and distribution over time and that’s something I will endeavour to keep working on. You know you have to be at the top of your game when you play Ma’a because he’s so abrasive and to make yards with him in defence. I remember swapping jerseys with him in 2008 when we had the Haka stand-off with the All Blacks which was a big moment for me.”

Best for game management: Conrad Smith

“If you could label him, it’d be to call him ‘the thinking man’s centre’. You watch how he plays, his lines of running, his timing hitting the line, clever support play, reading of defensive chinks. You can tell he’s a very intelligent player. In many ways, he’s the perfect foil for Nonu. He’s been the best in the world at what he does for the last 10 years and that’s some achievement in an All Blacks shirt. He’s also a bit of an unsung hero, like an Allan Bateman or a Will Greenwood, but not by me. He’s a quality player.”

Jamie Roberts was speaking at the T.M.Lewin store in London where the Welsh Rugby Union named the 115 year-old shirt maker and tailoring expert as their Official Formalwear Supplier until 2018