Paris, 9 February 2013. It might just have been the perfect day. It was a great day for me and, more importantly, for the team. It was so intense, so tense and so emotional and at the end we had that win, a victory that is one of the best wins I have had in a Welsh shirt. Winning in Paris is a rare achievement, then winning in Paris to get the monkey off our back after those run of defeats and winning in Paris on my 50th cap – it adds up to something special. We had a good celebration that night.
It was not the prettiest game to watch by any stretch. It was two teams under pressure with both maybe playing not to lose rather than trying to win it and a little piece of genius by Dan Biggar and George North turned things on their head.
In the Six Nations if you lose your first game all of a sudden there is a lot of pressure on you, never mind the run of results we were already on. Lose your first two and you are more or less out of the tournament and then even more pressure piles on you. After losing to Ireland we had to make amends right away and the week leading into the France game we were running out on to the training ground with a good feeling among the boys – sometimes you can just sense it.
The emotions were building before we even got to the Stade de France and by the time we ran out I was fighting back a tear. It was a combination of things, playing for your country and collecting my 50th cap. We had a team talk at the hotel and Rob Howley said a few words and presented me with my 50th jersey. I got quite emotional then. You realise how big an occasion it is and what a privileged group you are joining.
What happened next wasn't pretty but there was an awful lot of character on display out there, especially in defence. It was tense. Test matches are won and lost by the finest of margins, the bounce of the ball. Dan's kick bounced kindly up into George's hands and we are seven points ahead, then we get a penalty and it's 10 and we have won a Test match. Fine lines. There were plenty of moments in the previous eight games when we have been on the wrong side of that fine line.
It was a great moment for Dan. Coming into a match with that run of form behind us there is always going to be that extra pressure from the press and public but as players you have to deal with that. The more experience you get in the game, the less effect it has on you. Dan is a young guy who hasn't been around the Test scene too long but he is a very mature man for his age and his display on Saturday showed that. There are a lot of young guys in our squad, noticeably in the backline, guys who have only been around Test level for a couple of years but are demonstrating a great deal of maturity as players – that is what they showed against France.
When the final whistle went there was such a release of pressure. We certainly had a good night in Paris. And that's what rugby is all about I suppose – work hard, go through tough times together and it makes those good times feel all the more enjoyable and all the more memorable.
The changing room afterwards was an emotional place to be, a lot of guys hugging and showing sincere gratitude to each other for putting in the effort in the shirt. And the coaches as well – they go through it all equally, the same emotions as the players and the same tough times. Rob Howley has taken a lot of stick, had a lot of external pressure on him so to win for him is great as well.
I did choke up a bit on TV afterwards. I've taken a bit of stick from the boys for that – but anyone who knows me knows I can get emotional at times. It's part and parcel of sport. I shed a few tears on Saturday – I was in a good place and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was one of the best days I've had in a red jersey with the 50th cap, but even more so for the team getting the result after all the hard work and pressure we have been through.
We have had a couple of days off this week and have this weekend free from rugby as well but I will be in the library at 7am today and tomorrow – my medical exams are getting close. The break from a match is important for all six teams, having a chance to switch off from what is such an intense tournament.
Next up is Italy in Rome on Saturday. They will be disappointed with their match against Scotland. There was a three- or four-minute period where Scotland scored 14 points which won them the Test match. But Italy showed against France that if you don't defend well against them they can cause problems. First and foremost your defence has to be watertight, whether that's kick reception or defence off first phase plays and that's going to be a huge focus going into this game. Attacking wise we can improve after the French result. Our attack can go up a notch and we will be working hard on that over the next week.
Jamie Roberts launched Guinness Class at Twickenham stadium. For more information on how you can win a trip on a luxury private jet to an RBS Six Nations game for you and your mates, visit facebook.com/GuinnessGB
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