Jamie Roberts: It's been painful - an elbow injury and a kick in the teeth from the Wallabies
Regardless of the injuries, it was a hugely disappointing autumn
Saturday 08 December 2012
I was back in hospital yesterday, but unfortunately it was not just to study for my medical finals. Another week, another injury, that's what it has seemed like over the last month or so. This time I am out for six weeks – the aim is to be back in a Blues shirt by mid-January in time for the end of the Heineken Cup group games and then be ready for the Six Nations.
It happened after 55 minutes against Australia last weekend. We chipped the ball over the top, I went for it and caught my elbow. It got trapped the wrong way. The physio strapped it up and I finished the game, but I have torn ligaments on the inside of the elbow. It means a couple of weeks in a brace then rehab.
So I will be sitting out the Blues' Heineken Cup double-header against Montpellier – it is such a great competition and these back-to-back home and away games in rounds three and four add that extra bit of spice. First, they are in Cardiff tomorrow and we simply have to win. We let it slip against Sale and lost to Toulon, so have to win our remaining games. Montpellier are a big team with a big pack and big ball-carriers. We need to match them up front and win the physical contest.
All in all it's been a pretty physical month for me. First the freak KO against Argentina, that knock on my hip bone against New Zealand and then the elbow against Australia. But you can't dwell on it. Injury is part and parcel of playing rugby – always has been and certainly always will be.
With a lot of Wales players injured there will be questions asked about whether too many demands are made on players through international and club rugby. But that's too easy a conclusion to come to. There have been times when we have had a completely fit and healthy squad to pick from – look at the last World Cup. We were as fortunate then as we have been unfortunate this autumn. That's why you need to have depth in your squad, whether at international or regional level.
It's ruthless being a professional rugby player, but it is part and parcel of what we have signed up for. If you are out for a couple of months, well, so be it. It gives me the chance to have a full MOT – and time off the pitch also helps reinvigorate your hunger.
Regardless of the injuries, it was a hugely disappointing autumn. Losing four international games is not good enough. We have to use it as motivation, a kick up the backside that will carry us into the Six Nations. We are not at the level we need to be to win Test matches at the moment and that is the responsibility of each man in the squad to sort out. We have to go back to our clubs and get to that level – whether it be improving conditioning or mentally – to be able to win that opening game against Ireland.
There are improvements to make in all areas. In the first couple of games we failed to impose ourselves on Argentina and Samoa. We lost the battle of the gainline in attack and defence, and if you do that you will not win games, certainly when everything is magnified at international level. We did it better in the second half against New Zealand and last Saturday. The Australia game was a great Test match, tight and tough from start to finish. Their last-minute score was hard to take. Those fine lines make the difference and it hurts to be on the wrong side of them.
We played some good rugby against Australia. But we are there to win games; good performances and defeat count for nothing in the grand scheme of things. It's what is on the scoreboard that matters.
It is about winning and England did it fantastically against the All Blacks. They played the perfect game of rugby against those opponents, spot on in defence and willing to have a go in attack. It is a great result for English rugby and a lead to follow for the other home nations.
The World Cup draw is a tough one. Come the finals, Australia will be an even more formidable unit than they are now, but for the Welsh it is the other game that obviously catches the eye. For us the chance to play the hosts and next-door neighbours in a World Cup is pretty special. What an incentive: Wales against England at Twickenham in a World Cup – it doesn't get much bigger than that for a Welsh rugby player.
Most players would always want to be at home but I actually love playing away. It's that ultimate challenge of going into someone else's den and feeling the crowd on your back. I thrive on it. It's a great buzz, that gladiatorial feeling when you run out at Twickenham, Murrayfield or the Aviva Stadium. It's what this game is all about.
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