Blow for Wales as Jamie Roberts written off for autumn

Influential inside centre has operation on injured ankle and will miss all four November Tests

It was not expected to be much of a launch under the circumstances – more reminiscent of a soggy rocket on Bonfire Night than an Apollo moon shot – but at least there was some certainty on offer when a beleaguered band of Heineken Cup organisers gathered in Paris on Monday to drum up some interest in this season’s tournament. We now know for sure that Jamie Roberts, the most effective inside centre in the European game, will miss the whole of Wales’ forthcoming autumn international programme.

Roberts, so influential a midfielder that he was fast-tracked into the Lions Test side for the decisive final meeting with Australia in July despite an obvious lack of match practice, picked up a serious ankle injury while playing for his new team, Racing Metro, against Perpignan in a French Top 14 match a little over a fortnight ago. He has since had surgery and according to senior figures at the Parisian club, he will not play again until late November.

There is therefore no prospect of him facing South Africa, Argentina or Tonga, and as Racing do not have to release him for the final Wales Test of the year, against the Wallabies on 30 November, because the fixture falls outside the official international  window, he can kiss goodbye to that one, too.

Two Scarlets players are candidates to the fill the gap: the outside centre Jonathan Davies, who performed the No 12 role in the first two Lions Tests and left Australia with his reputation significantly enhanced, and Scott Williams. It is also possible that Warren Gatland, the Wales coach, will take a close look at one of his “lost sons” – Gavin Henson, now back on the beat with Bath.

Did a similar degree of conviction emerge on the vexed topic of the Heineken Cup, which the rebellious English and French clubs insist will cease to exist in its current form at the end of this last, valedictory  campaign? Of course not. The only thing provided by those in the thick of the argument yesterday was another deluge of bile.

Jean-Pierre Lux, chairman of the European Rugby Cup organising body – a body with which the Premiership and Top 14 clubs have no intention of negotiating – accused the rebels of “lacking respect”, adding: “The French clubs shouldn’t become the pets of the English clubs.” Lux then laid into the Premiership contingent, claiming they had “refused to engage” with those attempting to reach a  solution. “This impasse is essentially because Premiership Rugby wants to renege on a binding commercial deal [with Sky Sports] in favour of a questionable TV contract with BT,” he went on.

It was an intriguing use of language. Whatever the motives of the Premiership clubs in bringing down the curtain on the current European competitions, no one in authority has seriously questioned their agreement with, or commitment to, their new broadcasters. The deal is worth £152m, the new sports channels are up and running and the latest figures tell us that the television audience for club rugby in England has increased by 130 per cent. A chimera, it is not.

Meanwhile, London Irish have signed the long-serving Wales lock Ian Gough, capped 64 times – an  important move for a club running one of the smallest squads in the Premiership and already struggling with a heavy body-count. “He is a proven Test forward and has been  exceptional at the set piece and the breakdown throughout his career,” said the Exiles rugby director, Brian Smith. “His presence and influence around the training ground will be massive.”

Gough, who will be 37 in November, parted company with the Swansea-based Ospreys earlier this month.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference