Roberts refocused after Lions disappointment

Jamie Roberts has no doubt he will use his British and Irish Lions squad omission in a positive fashion this summer as he captains Wales on their summer tour.

Roberts’ hopes of making a third successive Lions trip were dashed last month when he missed out on selection for head coach Warren Gatland’s 41-man squad to tour New Zealand.

There had been intense media speculation the night before the squad announcement that 30-year-old Roberts would make it, but ultimately, he was not among 12 Wales players chosen by Gatland.

Harlequins centre Roberts will captain Wales in Tests against Tonga and Samoa next month — the Tonga clash is at Eden Park, Auckland on June 16 — and he is relishing leading a squad that contains 13 uncapped players.

“Having been in two Lions tour squads, I know that elation of having your name read out,” he said. “Unfortunately, this time round it was the opposite — it was disappointment. The beauty of a Lions tour is that not everyone can go. It is a very privileged position.

“It is a very special place to be, so I was gutted for about a day or two, and then you refocus and you go again and you use it as motivation. You respond to it in one of two ways — you mope around and you continue to mope around, or you dust yourself off and you go again.

“I have played some good rugby in the past few weeks for my club Harlequins, and I am thoroughly looking forward to this tour. Being named captain gives me extra incentive.”

Roberts was sounded out for the Wales tour captaincy barely 48 hours after missing out on the Lions, and he is relishing the challenge that lies ahead.

And while the skipper’s role is not one he has filled before during his senior rugby career — “I captained Cardiff Schools under-15s,” he added — the responsibility will rest easily with him.

“First and foremost, I want the young lads coming in to have the time of their lives playing for their country,” he said. “I want these guys to have the most fun possible. I truly believe you do your best work when you truly enjoy what you are doing.

“That’s first and foremost about the culture here, where the lads are coming in and they are bouncing to be coming into training every day. The second thing that’s big for me is accountability.

“I am a big believer in players being accountable for their actions on and off the field, and are ready to put their hand up when they’ve made mistakes and not stay quiet, ready to critique their own performances and be honest with the group.

“I am also a big fan of guys not sitting on their phones around team meeting rooms all afternoon. I want them to sit and have coffees and play cards and socialise, because you want to make close friends quickly with people and want to put everything on to the pitch for each other.”

Wales have never lost to Tonga, but the record against Samoa shows four defeats from nine starts, and Roberts is keen for some overseas success.

“The biggest challenge for this group — and we weren’t good at it in the Six Nations — is performing away from home,” he added. “We know the comforts of the Principality Stadium, we know the motivation that gives Welsh players when we play there.

“Unfortunately, in the Six Nations, we didn’t perform in Scotland and France. That is going to be the challenge. To embrace the occasion and pressure is what we want from the players, to embrace the environment and not be afraid of it. We want to win two Test matches.”