Former Gunnedah Red Devils junior Angus Roberts will line-up against what some pundits are calling one of the best assembled squads in world rugby next week, when he runs on for the Combined NSW-Qld Country outfit against the British and Irish Lions in Newcastle.
Roberts, who is now contracted to Super 15 franchise the Melbourne Rebels, was named in the star-studded 23-man country squad alongside fellow Super Rugby players Beau Robinson (Queensland Reds) and Phoenix Battye (Western Force).
Combined Country coach Cam Blades has been adamant in the match lead-up that he wanted the best playing stock available from NSW and Queensland country regions to seriously challenge the Lions on June 11.
The country squad combines a unique mix of high-profile playing professionals with talented rugby reps from amateur clubs on both sides of the border.
The former Red Devils junior started on his path to rugby stardom here in Gunnedah, aged just eight years old.
He moved to Sydney to continue his school studies where he remained until 2008 before jetting off to the UK for a working holiday.
He returned to Australia and was quickly snapped by the Rebels, wise in the knowledge of what was expected of him for the 2013 season.
“Just train hard, develop my skills off the quality players down here and know that good things will happen,” Roberts said.
He was also instrumental in gifting his former club, Sydney Uni, the 2012 Shute Shield premiership with a late try and successful conversion to get over Southern Districts 15-14 in the grand final.
The Melbourne move entailed a shift along the backline from halfback to fullback and now fly-half, but he conceded that fullback was where he “really came of age”.
Roberts’ season was put on hold last month after he dislocated his shoulder in the Rebels’ 36-32 loss to the Blues at Eden Park in New Zealand.
Ready to fire again, Roberts will be in good company for the Lions encounter.
Among those named in the initial 43-man Combined Country squad is Brumbies lock and former Quirindi junior, Sam Carter; Sydney University backrower and former Dubbo youngster, David Hickey; halfback and Western Force dynamo from Tamworth, Michael Snowdon and Port Macqauarie product Adam McCormack from the Hastings Valley Vikings.
Combined NSW/Queensland Country: Nathan Trist, Dale Ah-Wong, Lewie Catt, Tom Cox, Alex Gibbon, Ben Greentree, Tereta-Junior Siakisini, Angus Roberts, Adam McCormack, Michael Snowden, Jarrad Butler, Tim Davidson, Trent Dyer, Beau Robinson, Phoenix Battye, Blake Enever, Richard Stanford, Rikki Abraham, Dylan Evans, Haydn Hirsimaki, Tim Metcher, Tom Kearney, Josh Mann-Rae.