Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Roberts ready to raise the bar

Jamie Roberts believes Wales can still emerge victorious from their Six Nations campaign

Wales revived their RBS 6 Nations campaign by beating France in Paris last time out - and centre Jamie Roberts wants them to "raise the bar" at Rome's Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.

The reigning Six Nations champions would have been consigned to mid-table mediocrity, at best, had they lost to Les Bleus a week after coming unstuck on home soil against Ireland. But a 16-6 success has at least given them a fighting chance of retaining silverware, with Roberts underlining the need to build on that victory this weekend.

"England are in a strong position with two out of their three remaining games at home," he said.

"I would like to think the French will turn them over at Twickenham on Saturday. But we are still very much in with a shout. If we had lost last weekend it would have been different, but now we are one win from two and everything hinges on the next couple of games. Italy will be tough, but we will be ready. We know we need to raise the bar again.

"They run hard and tackle hard, and if you don't close them down they cause you problems. So first and foremost, our defensive effort needs to be at least as good as the effort in Paris."

Roberts has been part of two successful Wales teams in Rome, partnering James Hook in midfield two years ago and Gavin Henson two years before that, but Saturday will be his first appearance at the Stadio Olimpico.

Wales have only played there once before, winning 31-22 in 1996 when the line-up featured current interim head coach Rob Howley, skills specialist Neil Jenkins, Gareth Thomas, Scott Gibbs and captain Jonathan Humphreys.

And their Six Nations trips to Rome have often been far from plain-sailing, with Wales winning just once by more than 10 points and suffering defeats there in 2003 and 2007.

"I remember four years ago it was very close, and that has been the case the last few times against Italy in Rome," Roberts said.

"Their win against France was special and showed that any team can beat each other in this tournament."

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