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Jamie Roberts reveals how a dispute with Harlequins ended his Wales career

Jamie Roberts has revealed how Harlequins threatened to tear up his contract with them if he played for Wales outside of the official international window.

Roberts had been a stalwart for his country for the best part of a decade in 2017, having made his international debut back in 2008, winning 94 caps for Wales in that time.

While he wasn’t a regular starter for his country in the 2017 autumn internationals, he had come off the bench against the All Blacks and was set to come on as a replacement in Wales’ final test match that year against the Springboks.

However, Roberts has explained in his new autobiography ‘Centre Stage’ that a contract dispute with Harlequins meant that he was unavailable for that game against South Africa, as his appearance against New Zealand proved to be his last for Wales.

Jamie Roberts Harlequins

Jamie Roberts on his contract dispute with Harlequins.

“It was all being ripped away from me. Not because of injury, infirmity or poor form. I was being denied the right to play for my country by petty bureaucrats. Men in suits who had no idea what it meant, what it felt like and why it defined who I was,” Roberts wrote, via WalesOnline.

“They issued an ultimatum: report back to Harlequins for training on Thursday, or don’t bother coming back at all. It was couched in slightly more diplomatic language, but the crux was clear: play for Wales and you’re sacked.

“Imagine being offered the chance to do something you cherish more than anything else, but by accepting it you’ll be holding a flaming torch to the rest: your job, your livelihood. The place you’ve chosen to settle, the life you’ve carved out for yourself. All up in smoke.”

Roberts claims that he had signed a side letter to his contract with Harlequins which stated that he would be released to play for Wales outside of international windows, with the club agreeing to deal with any potential conflict with Premiership Rugby, who had previously fined Northampton Saints for allowing George North to do the same.

Harlequins insisted that they would release Roberts from his contract with them if he played against South Africa however, and the barnstorming centre decided to turn down the chance to line out for his country, in order to stay with the London club, a decision he now regrets.

‘It pains me to this day that I buckled and gave in.’

“I didn’t sleep again that night, and turned up to training looking gaunt and exhausted,” Roberts explained.

“I will never forgive [CEO David] Ellis or the Quins board for railroading me into that decision. I’d signed the contract in good faith, but when push came to shove it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.

“It pains me to this day that I buckled and gave in. To make matters worse, Hadleigh Parkes had an absolute stormer, scoring a brace of tries on his debut, while I watched on helplessly from my distant London flat.”

Harlequins informed Roberts just a matter of months later that they would not be renewing his contract for another season, as they had little room left in their budget after signing former New Zealand international Francis Saili.

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