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Wales' Jamie Roberts wary of wounded Ireland ahead of Aviva Stadium showdown

Published 06/02/2016

Wales centre Jamie Roberts is braced for a fierce Six Nations battle against Ireland on Sunday
Wales centre Jamie Roberts is braced for a fierce Six Nations battle against Ireland on Sunday

Jamie Roberts says Wales have to be "ready for what is coming" when they open their RBS 6 Nations campaign against Ireland in Dublin on Sunday.

Wales will face an injury-hit Ireland team shorn of players like Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Cian Healy and Sean O'Brien, but Roberts and company know from painful experience two years ago just how punishing a mission a trip to the Aviva Stadium can be.

On that occasion, Wales subsided, crushed 26-3 by an Ireland side whose forwards taught Wales a lesson in all aspects.

Harlequins centre Roberts is among five survivors in the Wales starting line-up this weekend from that game, and he is quick to acknowledge Ireland's threat.

"They've lost a bit of experience with a couple of guys retiring and obviously injuries, but strength in depth is something we pride ourselves on with Wales, having players there ready to step in, and Ireland certainly have that too," he said.

"They have quality in depth and Joe Schmidt is a very good coach, there's no doubt about that.

"They will have a plan ready for Sunday and we have to be ready for what is coming.

"I remember playing out there (Dublin) a few times and getting well beaten, particularly 2014, and let's not forget how they came to Cardiff in 2013 and beat us in the first game.

"I have won some against Ireland, but I've lost some as well, and I know if you are not on your game then you are going to come off second best."

While Wales start as favourites to sink Ireland, they know that any repeat of their 2015 World Cup attacking deficiencies could bite them.

Although chances are likely to be at a premium, especially given adverse weather conditions that are forecast for Sunday, Roberts accepts that Wales must produce a sharper cutting edge.

"We create a lot of chances on a rugby field, there is no doubt about that," he added.

"If you watch Wales games and look back over the years, our inability to convert those chances into tries has let us down somewhat.

"You could probably identify 10 or 20 individual moments, looking back over the last year or two, when we've made four on threes, we've made three on twos and we've either tucked and carried or made a poor pass.

"And I think that clinical edge is something we have been working on. Hopefully, in the Six Nations, we will carry on creating the same amount of scoring opportunities - and taking them."

Wales concluded their preparations in Dublin on Saturday, with recalled wing Tom James set for his first Test start since November 2010 and loosehead prop Rob Evans featuring instead of 119 times-capped Gethin Jenkins.

Centre Jonathan Davies, meanwhile, returns after missing the World Cup due to a knee ligament injury, and flanker Justin Tipuric starts in the number seven shirt, with skipper Sam Warburton at blindside and Dan Lydiate on the bench.

Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards said: "We are raring to go. We need to match the emotional level of the Irish team.

"I think it's a take your pick game. That is what is fantastic about the Six Nations. Look at last year's competition - what was it? Ten or 12 points in terms of points difference between the teams at the end.

"The game last year against Ireland was played in very good conditions, and I am not expecting us to make the number of tackles we made last time, but what we will have to do is be accurate with the tackles we have to make.

"Discipline is massive. It is something we have been working on all week."

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