I am as excited as anyone, any player, any supporter, anyone Welsh, about what is coming up at the Millennium Stadium this afternoon. This stadium is an incredible place and we owe the fans a result here.
Wales against England is the ultimate Test match for any Welsh player. To play against England in a game of this magnitude is the stuff dreams are made of and with England chasing the Grand Slam, every man and his dog will be watching the game, everyone across Wales, every Welsh person around the world is going to be watching. It’s huge and we can’t lose on our home turf.
Past experience comes to the fore in matches like this. It’s all about game management from 1 to 15, knowing the crack, knowing what is going on in the game, knowing how to take that pressure off other players.
What experience can do is help limit the amount of mistakes and in a game of this magnitude and ferocity that can be crucial. There will be a lot of nerves out there this afternoon – every player on the park will be nervous but it is about who controls those nerves the best.
There is ample experience in our side – a lot of the boys have played plenty of rugby at this level and in big games that have a hell of a lot riding on them. We have to make sure that comes to the fore today.
There is a flip side. There can be times when a side like England, who have not been through many games like this together, manage to go out there with nothing to fear and play as they have done throughout the tournament. They are a very good team and we need to be on the money to get the result, let alone win by seven.
Everyone is well aware of the fact we need not only to win but to win by that seven-point margin. Firstly we have to win the game but we want to win silverware – it’s why you play the game – and that margin is the ultimate aim.
To do that we will need to go out and score tries and with the roof shut, we should be capable of playing the free-flowing rugby that can bring them. We want to win the Championship and that is what we are going out on to that pitch looking to do.
Training has gone well and everyone in the camp is bouncing. The focus this week has been on us. We know what threat England bring. We need to make sure that we take our attacking game up a notch. The elements have not allowed us to play too much rugby throughout this tournament. It is important that we keep training to a high standard, even if we have not had the chance to put that into practice over the course of the last three games. Hopefully we can bring an extra dimension to our attacking play today.
Our defence has been very good so far apart from that half and a bit against Ireland and we are proud of having kept out France, Italy and Scotland on their home turf.
My immediate challenge this afternoon alongside Jonathan Davies will be to go up against Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi. We have faced them once before as a pair, last year in the Triple Crown game down at Twickenham. They are a strong pairing, quite similar to Jonathan and I – solid defensively and if you don’t muscle up in defence they can cause you problems in attack.
It is going to very physical contest and I’m sure it will be pretty attritional for periods of the game. It’s all about the top two inches this afternoon – that one mistake, that one missed tackle, being caught out of position for a split second. Fingers crossed our experience can make the difference. We have been here and won these games before.
Last year it was settled in one moment when Courtney Lawes got turned over and Scott Williams scored. It is often the team that makes the least mistakes that ends up the winner. We have cut our mistakes down in the last three games on the road and won all three.
Our defence has been very solid in structure and shape since the Ireland game. Shaun Edwards has done a great job as coach. Everyone buys into what he is trying to achieve. There have been times when we have been under the cosh in the championship, on our own goalline but we have felt strong and come through without conceding. There will be times today when we will be under the pump but it is important we trust our defensive system. It works and we must work out our problems as a team.
If there is one overall factor in turning around that run of results over last summer and the autumn it is a simple one. We have gone back to the basics, run hard and got on the front foot – you can’t win Tests going backwards.
Last autumn I felt we lost the battle of the gainline, whether that was going forward with the ball or in defence, we let our opponents get on the front foot and that is what we have in the last couple of games. We have come up hard in the line of defence and when we are carrying, we are carrying far stronger than we did in the autumn.
In the opening game against Ireland we were defensively quite poor but since then everyone has had a kick up the backside and we have managed to get three results on the road, which is pleasing. But this is another step up today.
A testing week as exams are welcome distraction
It has already been a busy week and a testing one too. I had my last two medical exams on Monday and Thursday, three hours on Monday and then 70 minutes on Thursday morning.
Next week I have a couple of practicals and then it is sit and wait for a few weeks for the results. They have been tough but I actually find it quite a nice distraction. I like to compartmentalise what I do, especially in the week leading up to a game like this. I do my homework on England and make sure all the boxes are properly ticked in training – there is no cutting corners there. But you have to appreciate that the game is won and lost over the course of those 80 minutes this afternoon. It’s not won and lost thinking about it on Thursday and Friday nights.
That’s the way I have worked my career to date, balancing both and I see it as a good balance. This week is a mini version of the last seven years of my life with everything focused into one week. It’s pretty intense but good – this is what life is all about.
Jamie Roberts, Wales centre, 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