Jamie Roberts: It’s usually a classic when Wales play Ireland and Saturday's clash will be no exception: a huge game, a passionate crowd...I can’t wait!

As defending champions we’ll be a target, but other teams are targets for us too

Wales against Ireland – it never ceases to entertain, does it? For the last 10 or 20 years we’ve been fairly evenly matched. Is it because we’re both quite similar – small rugby nations with four regional sides, countries that both have an attacking mentality when it comes to the game?

I don’t know why exactly; it’s difficult to put your finger on it. But it’s usually a classic.

Two years ago we beat them in Dublin; then they got their revenge in Cardiff last year – not to mention the Grand Slam game in 2009, when we lost out, plus our win in that 2011 World Cup quarter-final. The reality is that I’ve had a fair share of winning and losing against Ireland.

That World Cup game was almost perfect from us as a side; it felt like the day we put everything we’d been told into practice. As for two years ago in the Six Nations, I’d not played a massive amount of rugby – I was gasping for air – but it was a great win, a big part of the push for our title win.

I remember that crowd – it’s always great playing in Dublin, with 50,000 screaming at you – and also the try that Jonathan Davies scored, bouncing two players. It was all about skills learnt on the training field and he pulled that off beautifully.

Defensively, this is the biggest challenge of the Six Nations. Ireland love to spread the ball at every opportunity, they score great tries and, like us, they just love to play rugby.

Just look at their back line. Conor Murray and Jonny Sexton are always there getting the team going. I know from the Lions, but also playing with him at Racing Métro, that Jonny’s one of the game’s great thinkers. He’s always thinking about the bigger picture and he’ll certainly be thinking about our downfall.

He’s one of those players who keeps defences on their toes – so too Brian O’Driscoll and Rob Kearney, both truly world-class players.

Some have suggested that Brian will have a point to prove on Saturday because of what happened on the Lions tour. I don’t buy that. He’s so experienced and too wise to let that rattle him. I’m sure that left him frustrated for a few weeks but he’s over that now.

I know people would love that to be an additional subplot to this game but I genuinely believe that’s totally forgotten from his point of view. There’s been so much rugby since the Lions tour and his motivation will be more about the fact he’s coming to the end of his career, that this is one of his last chances to shine on the biggest stage.

I’m often asked about Brian and I know him well from two Lions tours. He’s a quality player and a great guy. I learnt a hell of a lot from him on the Lions tour in 2009. I owe him a lot but Scott Williams and I know we need to snuff out the threat he poses.

I’ve watched the Italy game back and we know we have to improve to bring down Ireland. We’ve been slow starters in the Six Nations in the past but a win’s a win and that is the best Italy side I’ve ever played against. Their defence was so tightly organised we struggled to get through.

OK, we made some mistakes. Too often we were spreading the ball wide when perhaps we didn’t deserve to do that. But the all-important thing was that we didn’t buckle.

Warren Gatland made the point after the game that a few years ago if we’d been leading by five points in the dying stages of a match, we would have capitulated. But we didn’t panic, we got ourselves a penalty in a kickable position for Leigh Halfpenny and then it was game won.

Increasingly under Gats there has been this mentality that instead of thinking we can win matches, we now believe it. Now we go to matches fully prepared, having done all our homework and knowing that if we put everything together we will win.

In the aftermath of the Italy game, there were some critics but I actually think we played some good rugby at times, some of it occasionally expansive, and we generally got over the gain line first.

For me personally, it’s hard to describe what it was like being back playing for Wales at the Millennium Stadium in front of 70,000 proud Welshmen. In many ways, the standout moment is when they stop the music halfway through the national anthem and you can just hear the choir and the crowd singing.

It’s so unique. In that one moment you feel the pride of being just one of 1,000 or so Welshmen ever to have experienced that moment on the field of play, that pride and respect of representing your countrymen. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

From a playing point of view, I managed to get my hands on the ball a few times, made a line break for Scott Williams’ try. I was pleased with how it went.

Maybe I went in with a slightly different mentality to the game. Part of that was down to the fact I missed the autumn internationals and it was a case of appreciating what you’ve got once it’s gone. Playing in a Wales shirt meant more than ever. But there was also the factor of me now playing abroad in France, so with a rare moment of playing in Wales I wanted to play really, really well.

I picked up a bit of a dead leg in the match, which was nothing major but meant I had to sit out a training session or two. I’m back and fully fit this weekend.

Looking ahead to the game, first and foremost it’s the battle of the gain line between defence and attack. Isn’t that always the case between Ireland and Wales? It’s a huge game, there will be a passionate crowd and I can’t wait to get out there.

This tournament is all about building momentum. We started with a win, we’re hoping for another. It’s a game too soon for Jonathan Davies so Scott and I remain in the centres, but it’s been great to have Jon in the camp this weekend.

The three of us are rivals for a midfield spot but it is never about individuals, it’s about what’s best for the team and he’s worked hard bouncing ideas off us both this week, pushing us forward for this weekend.

I’ll start the match with No 12 on my back but no doubt, as we did against Italy, Scott and I will chop and change. I don’t want to say too much but I’m sure the big boys, Alex Cuthbert and George North, will come off the wing at times too, to ensure we have that variety in our play.

After one round, the Six Nations hat-trick is still on – that’s what we’re working towards. Do we have a target on our backs as a result? Yes and no. As defending champions we’ll be a target for many, but other teams are targets for us too – not least Ireland.

Mentally and physically, the Irish are about as tough as they come. Hopefully, we can repeat the performance of two years ago  and of the World Cup in 2011.


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most