Jamie Roberts says it will be a privilege to play in “one of the biggest days in the calendar” when Harlequins face Aviva Premiership Rugby new-boys Bristol Rugby at Twickenham as part of the London Double Header, writes Sebastian James.
Quins take on the Championship winners at the home of English rugby on 3 September after Aviva Premiership Rugby Champions Saracens kick off the 2016-17 campaign by facing Worcester Warriors at the same venue.
The Welsh centre has never played in the Aviva Premiership’s curtain-raiser before, and ahead of his second season at Twickenham Stoop, outlined the significance of the game.
“At club level this is one of the biggest days in the calendar, and something which is new to me,” said Roberts.
“To get the opportunity to play at Twickenham for Quins is a privilege, and fingers crossed I earn selection for that game.
“It was a massive experience to be able to play at a sold-out Twickenham last year [in the Big Game against Gloucester Rugby], and to kick off the campaign with a game of that magnitude at the London Double Header really sets the tone for the season and shows how big Aviva Premiership Rugby is.”
Roberts believes that part of the London Double Header's attraction is the fact it is the biggest and best of its kind.
“For the fans it’s a huge day out, two games in one day and three hours of rugby is unrivalled,” he said.
“There’s not much of it around either, particularly in XVs, and you have to look towards 7s for that full day out at the rugby.
“There’s Judgement Day back in Cardiff which is a counterpart, but I never got to play in one of those due to injury.
“But having done that at the Big Game you can start to get a feel of what it’s like to wear the club shirt in front of that big crowd.”
For newly-promoted Bristol, playing in the London Double Header will be a reminder of how far they have come since winning their third Championship title in May with a two-legged victory over Doncaster Knights.
Quins will be the bookmakers' favourites, but Roberts insists John Kingston's side won’t be taking their opponents lightly as they look to improve on their seventh-place finish last season.
“There’s no risk of complacency,” said Roberts.
“Bristol are a team who will come very well coached, very well trained and ready to take us on.
“There’s no doubt they’ll be a tough opposition on their first time back up. They’ll want to impress in the early rounds and with that comes its risks. There’s huge incentive for them winning at Twickenham.”
* Start the Aviva Premiership Rugby Season in style with two games from £25 at Twickenham. Harlequins v Bristol Rugby and Saracens v Worcester Warriors in the London Double Header, 3 September. Tickets available from ticketmaster.co.uk.