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World Cup plans excite Roberts

Jamie Roberts has no doubt that an extended preparation period will help Wales arrive at the World Cup later this year in prime physical and mental shape.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland is set to announce a World Cup training squad in early June, then an intense build-up will feature training camps in Switzerland, Qatar and Poland, plus warm-up Tests against RBS 6 Nations champions Ireland (twice) and Italy.

"We work as hard as anyone in a World Cup build-up," Wales centre Roberts said.

"We know when we get together for a long period of time, we are a very good team.

"I look back to the last World Cup in 2011 when we had that time together and we really worked hard in putting in the hard yards in terms of fitness. Technically, we know we are a really good side.

"The core of players are still together, and there is a lot more experience now after the last World Cup. As I said, that preparation period gives us massive scope to work on things and improve our conditioning.

"Touch wood now, we pray the last few months of the season are injury-free for everyone. That's the hope.

"We will spend months together before we kick off the World Cup, and we can get in fantastic shape.

"In the Six Nations, it can sometimes be difficult with only two weeks' preparation.

"I know it is the same for the other teams as well, and we are notoriously slow starters in the Six Nations - that is plain for everyone to see, and we won't shy away from it."

Wales wound up their Six Nations campaign by storming to a record 61-20 victory against Italy at the Stadio Olimpico, scoring eight tries to pile the pressure on title rivals England and Ireland.

And although Wales ultimately had to settle for a third-place finish on points difference, their impressive recovery from an opening day loss to England suggests they are good enough to qualify from a World Cup pool that also includes Stuart Lancaster's team and Australia.

Gatland said: "It is one of the things we are excited about, having that time together before the World Cup to get us in great shape physically. We are not bad at the moment, but hopefully we will be a lot better by the time of the World Cup.

"It is an opportunity for us to have time together, which you don't always have as coaches and players. We can work on variations of our game.

"We won't be going into the World Cup with any fears of not qualifying from our group.

"There is no fear about playing England at Twickenham or Australia as well, because we know we will be in good shape as long as everyone stays fit and clear of injuries. We can go there with some real confidence and belief that we can get out of our group."

Wales will undoubtedly reflect on their second-half demise against England as costing them a potential third Grand Slam of Gatland's coaching reign.

But they responded strongly to that setback, beating Scotland, France, Ireland and Italy to give themselves a title chance on the tournament's final day.

Roberts added: "We have shown good mental strength and good ability to bounce back. Four wins out of five we are pleased with.

"We went out (against Italy), had a crack and scored tries. That's what rugby is about.

"The great thing was the composure after half-time. We knew that the first half was going to be difficult, and the patience we showed was good. That is the sign of a mature side, mature players and a mature team."

And Wales defence specialist Shaun Edwards is also relishing the World Cup challenge that awaits, claiming: "We will be on an even higher plateau by the World Cup.

"The World Cup is the only time that we compete on an equal level to the southern hemisphere teams. They are together for four months every year, and we like to think we get better with time together.

"There are no guarantees, but I don't think we will be a bad team, come the World Cup. The longer we are together, the better we seem to be."


From Belfast Telegraph