Six Nations: Jamie Roberts demands Wales 'raise the bar' against Italy
Wales travel to Rome in the Six Nations this weekend
Wednesday 20 February 2013
Wales centre Jamie Roberts wants the side to “raise the bar” at Rome's Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.
The reigning Six Nations champions beat France in Paris last time out to revive a campaign that would have been consigned to mid-table mediocrity, at best, had they lost to Les Bleus a week after going down on home soil against Ireland.
But that 16-6 victory has at least given them a fighting chance of retaining silverware, and Roberts has underlined the need to build on that success 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."
The Paris clash was notable for being played out by two teams seemingly gripped by a fear of failure.
France had lost to Italy six days previously, while Wales were on a run of eight Tests without a win, but wing George North's late try ensured a memorable 50th Test match appearance for Roberts.
The win sparked emotional scenes in the Wales dressing room, highlighted by Roberts' tearful post-match television interview that reflected exactly what it meant to rediscover winning ways.
He added: "I would like to think that after getting the win we will go out and play to win.
"In Paris, it was probably a bit of a case of two teams trying to make sure they didn't lose.
"I have had stick from the boys (over the TV interview), but anyone who knows me knows I can get quite emotional.
"It was a combination of things - the pressure we had been under, the fact it was my 50th cap and the fact that I had seen players and coaches so happy in the changing room.
"It does get emotional, I'm a bit of a big baby, actually! But seriously, when you train hard and you lose it hurts, and then when you finally crack it - and in a place like Paris - it can have a deep effect on you.
"It was a rather alien feeling after the last 10 months, but that day was up up there among the best days I've had in a Wales shirt.
"It is important we harness the feeling we had after the game and have that desire to repeat it. The changing room afterwards was a special place.
"After you lose that many on the bounce and the pressure sets in, it snowballs. You can get into the habit of losing, but we built on the promise we showed in the second half against Ireland.
"It wasn't the prettiest of games. It was like playing with a bar of soap at times it was so greasy, but our defence was magnificent. We had that desire to put the tackles in and stop them playing.
"There was a lot emotion, and there was that release at stopping a losing run and winning out in Paris in the process."
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 won 31-22 on their only previous visit, 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 suffering defeats there in 2003 and 2007 and winning by more than 10 points just once.
"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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