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Six Nations: Redemption motivates Roberts after Ireland’s 2009 Grand Slam triumph

Wales centre Jamie Roberts has billed today's RBS 6 Nations clash against Ireland as pay-back time following two years of hurt.

Ireland have only lost once on Welsh soil since 1983, and they hold an emphatic 8-3 lead in Six Nations Tests between the countries.

Roberts is particularly pained by events of 2009, when Ireland stormed the Millennium Stadium to not only land the Six Nations title, but complete their first Grand Slam for 61 years.

And he also winces at last season's Croke Park memories, when Wales delivered arguably their worst Six Nations performance under coach Warren Gatland as they subsided to a 27-12 defeat.

“It is something we desperately want to turn around,” said Cardiff Blues star Roberts, who played in both games.

“And everyone remembers them winning the Grand Slam in Cardiff two years ago. That was a kick in the teeth, to say the least. We owe those guys one, without a doubt.

“We just didn't click last year, and Ireland put us to the sword.

“We defended poorly, had a yellow card and conceded two soft tries. It was very frustrating, but this is our chance for redemption.

“And losing at home in 2009 was certainly one of the worst places you can be, seeing the opposition pick up the Grand Slam in your home venue.”

Both teams maintain title aspirations heading into the latest Cardiff encounter, a game that sees Gatland take charge of Wales for a record 36th Test against a country he used to coach.

England remain overwhelming favourites to lift Six Nations silverware in Dublin next week, but a win for Wales or Ireland today would keep alive their own trophy hopes, with the Irish having an added Triple Crown incentive sparked by beating Scotland last time out.

Unsurprisingly, Roberts acknowledges the threat posed to Welsh ambitions by Ireland captain and his 2009 British and Irish Lions midfield colleague, Brian O'Driscoll.

The 110 times-capped O'Driscoll needs one try to equal Ian Smith's championship career record of 24, and Roberts added: “Everyone knows he's a talisman.

“He doesn't miss many tackles, and his work on the ball at the breakdown is second to none.

“It is certainly something all the players are very wary of, and we need to win the collisions when it comes to him because he will win the ball for fun.

“They (O'Driscoll and his centre partner Gordon D'Arcy) have been the centre of Leinster and Ireland's attack for almost a decade.

“It promises to be a great match-up for myself and Jon Davies against Gordon and Brian. It's one I am really looking forward to.

“It's great testing yourself against the best, and those two have been the best for some time.”

Roberts, though, hopes Wales can give Ireland plenty to worry about behind the scrum, with their back division strengthened by James Hook featuring at fly-half and Leigh Halfpenny recalled on the wing.

“I think James' talents are there for all to see,” he said.

“When 10 is a threat and nine (Mike Phillips) is a threat, it can make a huge difference. As a centre, that makes your job so much easier. It takes a lot of pressure off you when the guy inside you is keeping defences honest, and James certainly does that.

“But unless you are going forward, you are not going to score tries.”

Belfast Telegraph


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