Gibbs was described as a pocket battleship in his playing days, standing no more than 5ft 10in tall and weighing in at just over 14 stones. His would-be modern-day equivalent Roberts is more in the destroyer class at 6ft 4in and 16st 9lbs.
The Cardiff Blues centre made such an impact in his first full season of Test rugby that he knocked out the Wallaby skipper Stirling Mortlock in one mighty collision, forced England to dedicate one of their back row players, Joe Worsley, to shed his set-piece duties to man mark him and steered his club to the EDF Energy title and the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup.
His clash with Mortlock left him with a hairline fracture of the skull, but he refused to leave the field for 15 minutes, setting up a vital try that helped Wales to beatAustralia, before heading to hospital.
So, when he says he is looking forward to making a few dents in the Royal XV defensive system in the Lions' opening game in Phokeng today, the home players had better reach for the padding.
"I love running with the ball and I enjoy the physical side of the game as well. I'd love to do for these Lions what Scott Gibbs did in 1997," said Roberts.
"He was very direct in the way he played and that's how I like to play. It doesn't worry me that I'll be a marked man because if they are concentrating on me it creates space for others.
"England used Joe Worsley to play opposite me in the Six Nations, but that meant they weren't concentrating so hard on the other Welsh players. This is a great opportunity for me and I intend to make the most of it."
Roberts' father arrived in South Africa yesterday to take in the six-week tour and both he and his son are hoping the 22-year-old can form a dream Test partnership with Brian O'Driscoll.
That would represent a great achievement for a player who thought his season might have been over after that sickening clash of heads with Mortlock six months ago. As a medical student, he knew it could have been a serious injury, yet he was back on the field within six weeks.
"I was pretty worried at first when the collision happened and my first thought was that my season might be over. I managed to get up, but my head was pounding after a while," said Roberts.
"I wasn't sure what the injury was until they showed me the scans at the hospital. You could see there was a hairline fracture of the skull and luckily that's all it was.
"It has fully healed now and is probably stronger now than before. I was back playing for the Blues within six weeks and then for Wales in the Six Nations.
"This season has simply flown by. I've played eight or nine games for Wales, had a good run with the Blues and now I'm here with the Lions."
Even though he is only 22, and has a mere 12 caps under his belt, Roberts will start the game against the Royal XV as the senior partner in the Lions midfield. Outside him will be 21-year-old Keith Earls, who has only two caps to his name.
"It is important that we mix well and get our combinations working. Having Ronan O'Gara at outside-half is bound to help us both because he is a class act," said Roberts.
"He showed that for Ireland in their Grand Slam campaign and it will be fantastic having him in middle with us."