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Jamie Roberts confident Wales can handle England and Twickenham pressure

Published 11/03/2016

Centre Jamie Roberts will feature in an experienced Wales team against Six Nations opponents England on Saturday
Centre Jamie Roberts will feature in an experienced Wales team against Six Nations opponents England on Saturday

Jamie Roberts has backed experience as an essential element of Wales' bid to repeat their World Cup heroics and floor fellow RBS 6 Nations heavyweights England on Saturday.

Wales return to Twickenham six months after inflicting a damaging World Cup defeat on England for what is effectively a Six Nations title eliminator.

A Wales win would leave them needing one more victory - against struggling Italy at home next weekend - to secure a third Six Nations crown in the last five seasons.

An England triumph, though, and Wales will be eliminated from the title race, leaving Eddie Jones' men within touching distance of silverware, plus a first Grand Slam since 2003 if they defeat France in eight days' time.

Wales were the last team to inflict a Six Nations defeat on England at Twickenham, four years ago, and Saturday's meeting - the 128th in a series that England currently lead 58-57 - once again looks finely balanced.

But when it comes to caps, Wales hold a distinct edge, with a combined 675 appearances in their starting line-up and 281 more on the bench. England, in contrast, have 268 caps fewer across their matchday 23.

"Across the board, if you look at our squad now there is a lot of experience there and guys who have played in big moments," Wales centre Roberts said.

"It's a different pressure, and to be able to concentrate your focus and attention when the stakes are at their highest is something you can only learn with experience. I would back our side any day.

"When there is much on the line, it (Twickenham) is an incredible place to play, and the boys are looking forward to Saturday.

"There has been a different air about the squad this week since we came in on Monday morning, and you could feel it's a big week."

Roberts, who now plays his club rugby with Harlequins alongside key England men like Chris Robshaw and Mike Brown, is quick to salute an impressive post-World Cup recovery under new Red Rose head coach Eddie Jones.

England's World Cup dream became a nightmare following home defeats against Wales and Australia, meaning they were the first host nation in the competition's history not to reach the knock-out stages.

But under the direction of Australian Jones, England have reeled off successive Six Nations victories over Scotland, Italy and Ireland to take pole position, even if Wales are tailgating them menacingly.

"Full respect to England," Roberts added. "From what they went through in the World Cup, they have come back really strong.

"They have regrouped under a new coaching team, and if you watch, they are playing with enjoyment and width on the game and putting teams under pressure.

"They have some very good players, and guys who are playing at the top of their game."

Wales, though, possess plenty of game-breakers in their own ranks, none more so than juggernaut Northampton wing George North, who has claimed tries in the last two Six Nations games and taken his Test tally to 25 in 58 starts.

"George is like a big kid," Roberts said. "He's 23 and has nearly 60 caps, but he still acts like he's 18, bouncing around the place with a smile on his face.

"I honestly feel he plays his best rugby when he's like that, when he is in an environment where he's challenged and can wreak havoc.

"His athletic ability is frightening, and we've seen that during this tournament. Hopefully, we will see it again on Saturday at Twickenham.

"He's a fantastic lad and gives everything to the side. It's great to see him performing at that level, because he's a frightening world-class prospect when he is.

"England versus Wales in any sport, whether it's in rugby or anything else, has a history and a tradition.

"It's such an awesome occasion, and you remember all the England-Wales matches down the years clear as day and what happened in those games. They are always big moments in your career, and Saturday is no different.

"When you fast-forward 10 years and you don't have these opportunities in life to play in games of this magnitude, you have to appreciate them more than ever. It's a big game - no doubt about that."

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