By Rob Cole
This time last year Jack Roberts was in Paris playing Champions Cup rugby with Leicester Tigers against Dan Carter’s Racing 92 superstars.
Twelve months on the north Bangor-born, Llandovery College educated centre will be hoping to kick-start his Cardiff Blues career with an appearance against Leinster A in the British & Irish Cup at Sardis Road.
It is not the route into the big-time in Welsh rugby that Roberts had been hoping for after returning home from the Tigers. Injuries have restricted him to a mere 22 minutes of first-team action at Blues after he suffered a knee injury on his Guinness PRO14 debut against Munster in September.
He lasted only 14 minutes of that game and then had eight minutes in an Anglo-Welsh game against Newcastle Falcons two months later. He has also made appearances for Cardiff RFC at the start of the season.
The Blues Premiership Select XV also has Wales tight head prop Scott Andrews in the starting line-up for the Pool 2 clash with the unbeaten leaders from Dublin. Last month he was anchoring the Welsh scrum in the 24-22 win over the Springboks at the Principality Stadium.
He has spent time out on loan at Bath this season and will be hoping for a call from Warren Gatland next week when he announces his NatWest 6 Nations squad.
At least moving in the other direction to Roberts and Andrews is the Wales Under 20 skipper Will Jones. He misses the Ospreys game at Aberavon tonight (Friday, 7.30pm) against Bedford Blues because of his involvement in the Champions Cup clash with Saracens this weekend.
“Ill discipline probably cost us the result in the last five minutes against Nottingham last time out, so we’re looking to turn our attack into points and get our efforts shown on the scoreboard,” said Ospreys head coach Tom Smith.
“Even though we’re starting to build our game, we still need to put in a strong performance for the full 80 minutes. We’ll be looking to replicate the first-half performance that we had up in Bedford and finish the job off this time.”
Of the four Welsh regions, only the Scarlets have picked up a win in the tournament this season, but their two victories still see them trail behind Cornish Pirates and Ulster A by five points in Pool 5. They travel to face Hartpury College this weekend seeking a double over the English side having beaten them 24-21 at home.
Wales hooker Emyr Phillips makes a return to action for the first time since September, while Wales Under 20 cap Corey Baldwin returns for the first time this season having recovered from a groin injury. No 8 Jack Condy leads the side.
Head Coach James Chapron has made six changes to the Dragons side heading to Jersey to meet the unbeaten Pool 3 leaders. Dragons scrum half Charlie Davies partners Matt O’Brien at half-back, while Lennon Greggains skippers the side from the back row that includes fellow Wales Under 18 cap Taine Basham and Bath University student Jack Davies.
B&I CUP ROUND 5 FIXTURES
Friday, 12 January
Ospreys PS XV v Bedford Blues (Talbot Athletic Ground, Aberavon, 7.30pm)
Jersey Reds v Dragons PS XV (Stade Santander International, 7.45pm)
Saturday, 13 February
Cardiff Blues PS XV v Leinster A (Sardis Road, Pontypridd, 2.30pm)
Hartpury v Scarlets PS XV (Hartpury College, 2.30pm)
Ospreys: Cai Evans; Joe Gatt, Joe Thomas, Rhys Williams, Jay Baker; Luke Price (captain), Matthew Aubrey; Rowan Jenkins, Hugh Gustafson, Mitchell Walsh, Kieran Martin, Matthew Dodd, Jay Williams, Joe Tomalin-Reeves, Morgan Morris
Reps: Luke Davies, Tom Sloane, Rhys Henry, Matthew Davies, Lee Purnell, Harri Morgan, Callum Carson
Cardiff Blues: Patric Lewis; Dafydd Smith, Jack Roberts, Josh Martin, Mathew Billen; Ben Thomas, Scott Gibson; Corey Domachowski, Ethan Lewis, Scott Andrews, Ben Murphy, James Down, Shane Lewis-Hughes (captain), James Botham, Alun Lawrence
Reps: Iestyn Harris, Rhys Carre, Keiron Assiratti, Owain Lloyd, Sion Edwards, Harry Rumens, Max Llewellyn
Scarlets: Tom Rogers; Matthew Jenkins, Corey Baldwin, Rhodri Jones, Ryan Conbeer; Rhys Jones, Alex Schwartz; Rhys Fawcett, Emyr Phillips, Javan Sebastian, Josh Helps, Jack Jones, Chris Long, Dan Davis, Jack Condy (captain)
Reps: Dafydd Hughes, Steff Phillips, Steff Thomas, Stuart Worrall, Lewis Ellis-Jones, Gareth George, Scott Lloyd
Dragons: Josh Prosser; Barney Nightingale, Sam Beard, Connor Edwards, Johnny Morris; Matt O’Brien, Charlie Davies; Phil Price, Ellis Shipp, Keagan Bale, Henri Williams, Josh Skinner, Jack Davies, Taine Basham, Lennon Greggains (captain)
Reps: Will Griffiths, Josh Reynolds, Josh James, Kristian Parker, Andrew Waite, Owain Leonard, Steffan Jones