Jamie Roberts is relishing the prospect of Wales’ record-breaking midfield partnership being reunited in Dublin next Sunday.
And Roberts says that his fellow centre Jonathan Davies is “bouncing around the place” ahead of a probable Test match return.
Head coach Warren Gatland will name his team on Wednesday for Wales’ RBS 6 Nations opener against Ireland, with Roberts and Davies poised for a 40th start together.
It would unquestionably have been more than that by now, but Davies suffered what was to be a World Cup-ending knee ligament injury playing for French club Clermont Auvergne last May.
And Wales, despite reaching the World Cup quarter-finals, unquestionably missed Davies’ power and creativity, which suggests his international comeback will be key to hopes of landing a fourth Six Nations title since Gatland took charge in early 2008.
“I’ve played a lot of rugby with Jon down the years, and if we do play on Sunday it will be our 40th match together,” said Roberts, who is poised to win his 75th cap.
“He is a quality player who has shown big moments in big games. He is a good guy who does his best for the side.
“I said it last week, but I’ve had injuries myself and I know how hard that must have been for him watching the World Cup, to have done all that preparation and not be part of it.
“He has come back in and is bouncing around the place, ready to go. He has had a good month or so with Clermont, getting back to match fitness. I think you will see a fired-up Jonathan Davies in Dublin, no doubt about that.
“We are both athletic, big guys, and we’ve worked hard on improving our passing skills, reading each other in attack and defence, and letting things become second-nature.
“We expect high standards of each other, and the environment here demands high standards of everyone. It’s important that Jon and I, as senior players, push those standards and look to help develop the younger players like Cory Allen and Tyler Morgan.
“Those guys will wear the centre jerseys for Wales in the future, but I am enjoying the partnership with Jon, and we have to look to develop it further.
“You are never too old to learn, and it’s important for us to keep improving our understanding.”
Roberts will head into the Six Nations campaign following a post-World Cup spell that saw him represent Cambridge in the Varsity Match before joining up with his new club Harlequins.
And Roberts believes that period at Cambridge, when he embarked on a medical science masters degree, was just what the doctor ordered.
“It was a low-pressure environment, playing with a group of lads who were obviously playing for fun,” he added. “A few of the lads were late for training because they were coming straight from lectures, which was just awesome. It was brilliant. Not me, though – I didn’t go to lectures!
“I suppose it [rugby] has been really, really serious for eight-nine years on the trot, and to do it at that point of my career was great. I probably found, if anything, a new-found love of the game.”
ESPN.com – RUGBY