Jamie Roberts: K39 Erasmus, Queens’
Wales and British and Irish Lions rugby legend Jamie Roberts and Third Year student Lara Greening compare injuries, curtains and the best views in Queens’.
You’d expect a multi-capped international rugby player to have more injury anecdotes than a psychology student. But within a few minutes of welcoming Jamie Roberts (Queens’ 2015) back to his old room, talk turns to sport and Lara Greening (Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, Third Year) recalls her last, disastrous ski trip. “I broke my leg. In fact, I severed the artery, and I was off-piste, so they couldn’t get to me. Now I’ve got a titanium plate in my leg.”
Roberts – who is also a qualified doctor – is instantly intrigued. “Ah, classic tourniquet moment,” he says, before sharing his own calamitous experience at the 2015 Varsity match at Twickenham. “In the first minute, I carried the ball and my opposite number dived headfirst straight into my right quad and knocked himself clean out. He had to pull out. Unknown to me, my quad was bleeding and by half time I had to pull out too. And to make things worse, they won the game…”
Luckily, Roberts has clocked up plenty of victories before and since. His rugby career began in 2005, and he’s played for teams around the world, including Cardiff and the Dragons, Racing Métro, Harlequins, Bath and the (South African) Stormers. He’s had a stellar international career, too: between 2008 and 2017, he won 94 caps for Wales and three for the British and Irish Lions. Indeed, it’s rugby that has brought him back to K39, Erasmus today – he’s here to play in the Steele-Bodger match, traditionally the last match before the Varsity clash.
“I wasn’t in this room for too long as my MPhil was mostly distance learning, but I absolutely loved it here,” he says. “I’d go to the Copper Kettle every morning for breakfast and the Eagle was my favourite pub. I loved walking around Cambridge, seeing all the blue plaques, thinking about all the amazing things that have happened. This room has barely changed. New curtains, maybe? But everything else is the same.”
And having one of the best views in Queens’ helped, too. Greening loves K39’s enormous window, though admits to being slightly scared by it, too. (“It’s waist-high! Most of the time I’m too nervous to open it.”). It gives a spectacular view of both sunrise and sunset, looking over the President’s Garden and Walnut Tree Court towards the city. On a misty winter’s day, it’s the most quintessential Cambridge view you can imagine. “I got this room through pure luck,” she marvels. “I didn’t even put it high up on my ballot. Plus, five of my friends balloted with me and another five balloted separately, and we ended up in a household together without even asking.”
However, there are drawbacks. “The wind really whips through when you’re on the third floor. And right now, the heating’s broken.” The temperature didn’t bother Roberts during the day, but as a 6ft 3in rugby player, he could have done with more capacious sleeping quarters. “I swear, that’s the same bed I had. It was way too small for me. My feet just stuck out the end of it. I had to sleep curled up in the foetal position.”
Greening is hoping to return to the University next year to undertake a Master’s. “I’ve absolutely loved it here,” she says. And Roberts will no doubt be back for the rugby – whether that’s playing or watching. “Cambridge was different to anything I’ve experienced in my life before,” he says. “It’s such a privilege to be part of something that has had such a massive influence on the world. I’m proud of coming here and playing rugby here and joining this wonderful group of alumni who love the game, too.”
Jamie Roberts retired from rugby in 2022 and encourages rugby-interested alumni to visit CURUFC to find out more. Lara Greening has her eye on a Master’s return in September.