Roberts savours 'surreal' experience

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The Independent Online

Jamie Roberts admits it will be a "surreal" experience playing alongside some of South Africa's biggest names just five months after terrorising them for the British and Irish Lions.

The Barbarians have selected Wales' powerful centre for today's showdown with New Zealand at Twickenham in a team that contains six Springboks.

Roberts emerged as the Lions' player of the series last summer after his bulldozing runs in the first two Tests consistently left a trail of green shirts in his wake. But, having traumatised the likes of Bryan Habana, Schalk Burger and Victor Matfield as an opponent, Roberts now finds himself fighting for the same cause.

"There has been a bit of banter flying around with the South African lads," Roberts said. "It's a completely surreal experience to meet these boys, but we're all in it for the same reasons."

Matfield will captain a side boasting 925 caps, including All Black right-wing Joe Rokocoko. Australia supply four players to the starting line-up, among them skipper and back-row forward Rocky Elsom and fly-half Matt Giteau.

"The Barbarians are steeped in history and tradition and it's a great invitational team. Long may it live," Roberts added. "It's probably getting tougher and tougher each year as the game gets more professional, but it's an absolute honour and privilege to be involved."

Richie McCaw, who played for the Barbarians last year, leads a weakened New Zealand team in the final fixture of the All Blacks' autumn tour.

Teams for today's game at Twickenham (2.15): New Zealand: C Jane; B Smith, T Ellison, L McAlister, Z Guildford; S Donald, B Leonard; W Crockett, C Flynn, J Afoa, J Eaton, A Boric, L Messam, R McCaw (capt), R So'oialo. Replacements: A Hore, N Tialata, A Thomson, T Latimer, J Cowan, M Delany, S Sivivatu.

Barbarians: D Mitchell (Australia); J Rokocoko (New Zealand), J Fourie (South Africa), J Roberts (Wales), B Habana (South Africa); M Giteau (Australia), F du Preez (South Africa); S Perugini (Italy), B du Plessis (South Africa), W P Nel (Free State Cheetahs), C del Fava (Italy), V Matfield (South Africa, capt), R Elsom (Australia), S Burger (South Africa), G Smith (Australia). Replacements: S Moore (Australia), T Mtawarira (South Africa), Q Geldenhuys (Italy), A Powell (Wales), W Genia (Australia), M Steyn (South Africa), L Halfpenny (Wales).

Referee: C Berdos (France).