Jamie Roberts: Why Bruce Springsteen, self-belief and porridge are on menu for me today
Millennium Eye: We have to play on the front foot to right the wrongs of the autumn
Saturday 02 February 2013
This is a special day, day one of the Six Nations. It's all about tradition, the quality of the rugby, the intensity of the rugby, everything that goes with it. This is a magical tournament and we are buzzing.
It has been building all week, now it is finally here and the boys are bouncing, desperate to get out there and play. We have had a disappointing six months but we are the Six Nations champions, it is a new year, a new campaign and, believe me, we are going into it with confidence.
By now, after five years of it, I have a well-drilled match-day routine. An early kick-off means being up early – I like to eat twice before a game and just can't lie around in bed on the morning of a match. Porridge and omelette for breakfast followed by something like bolognese, pasta and potato wedges for lunch – our nutritionist has it all covered – and then comes one of the special moments about being a Welsh rugby player, the drive from the hotel to the ground.
I will have my headphones in, probably a bit of Bruce Springsteen, some house music and finishing off with my go-tos as we get to the Millennium, The Verve's "Lucky Man" and "This Is The One" by The Stone Roses. The drive tells you what it's all about, watching the fans falling out of the bars and pubs to come and cheer the bus past. As a player you sit in the bus, listen to your music and watch, soaking it up.
Then the stadium. There will be more music in the dressing room before we head out to warm up, but once we return it gets quiet, the focus tightens and the intensity starts to build. Here's the problem, though: you can try and control the nerves, keep yourself calm, stay focused on what you have to do and what the team has to do and try and remember you are there to do a job, but then you run out into the stadium and you cannot help feel lifted by it all, this incredible stadium, the noise and excitement – it's not easy to keep calm and carry on.
The Millennium when it is full on Six Nations day is unforgettable – and especially when the Irish are in town. Their supporters are something else and they like a swig, so it is always some atmosphere in the ground and around the city.
For Andrew Coombs it will be a particularly special day, winning his first cap. It has been one hell of a journey for him as it is only little more than a year since he was playing semi-professional rugby with Newport in the Welsh Premier League. He is a physical guy, abrasive, he knows his game, but it will be an emotional time for him. The emotions you share with a guy winning his first cap are pretty special – it brings it back to you. He will be a very proud guy this afternoon. In rugby, to represent your country is an incredible dream, first to wear the red shirt and then to win in the red shirt. He has to go out there to put in a performance worthy of that jersey – that is what we all have to do.
We have to right the wrongs of the autumn campaign. First and foremost, we must play the game on the front foot. Too often in the autumn we lost the battle of the gain line, especially in the first two games against Samoa and Argentina, whether that was in defence or attack. Rugby is a game to be played on the front foot – you can't do much behind the gain line. We know what we have to do to take it back up a notch and hit the heights of our displays in last year's Six Nations.
We will have an experienced team out there, plenty of caps on that pitch. It is a team that has matured together over the last couple of years, continually learning and continually putting pressure on ourselves to perform. We did not do that as we wanted over the autumn but we have beaten Ireland in the last three meetings and we have to make sure we add to that today.
Opposite me and Jonathan Davies is one of the great centre pairings, Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy. Today they become the most capped centre partnership in history, the 48th time they have been together at 12 and 13, and that is some feat. Hats off to them. For a decade they have been at the top, the fulcrum of Ireland's attacking game, two very, very special rugby players, and they are good guys, to boot. I'm sure it will be a great battle – and we will have a beer afterwards.
There is an extra element to this campaign as well with a Lions tour in the summer, but in rugby terms that is a mile away. A week is a long time in rugby, three months is an eternity – everything can change in one game. The most important thing as a Welshman is that we defend that Grand Slam and do so successfully. The more successful we are as a team, the more Welshmen there will be on that plane this summer. The minute you take a selfish approach you lose – it is about the team, it is about Wales and it is about Wales winning.
Two Tests, then comes a real exam
This is going to be a busy few weeks, not only with the rugby but also with my medical exams coming up in the week of the England game. The aim is to get the first two games done and use the free week to get my revision sorted. It's going to be tough, a good challenge. Pressure makes you revise better... at least, that's what I'm hoping.
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
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