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Friday 22 September 2017

Roberts on red alert

JAMIE ROBERTS has all the appearance of the 'Steve Silvermint' of Welsh rugby - their cool, clean hero with all the added value of intellectual and physical gifts.

In play, he is a terror on two feet, 6'4" high, over 17 stones in weight of a human wrecking ball, whose primary role is to skittle men like bowling pins.

Soon to become known as Doctor Roberts, this Cardiff Blue can turn opposition defences red with embarrassment by the sheer majesty of his physical prowess.

How Wales need him at The Aviva Stadium on Sunday as he makes his way back from a knee injury that occurred at Christmas time. It is a day-to-day battle with his body.

Roberts is articulate, hard and handsome. Guess what? He is also the sort of guy you wouldn't mind nipping around the corner with for a quiet pint. That is the impression given in the company of strangers as a Guinness Ambassador at a media day in London.

For all the talents he holds as an individual, it is his generosity as a team player that marks him out as one who will sacrifice for the greater good.

"As an individual, you just want to play your role in the team, be one of the cogs in the machine. If the coaches deem that our best way forward is by me going over the gain line using my brute force, so be it," he said.

The pounding of Roberts into the heart of the Irish defence drained energy and concentration from Ronan O'Gara and Gordon D'Arcy in the World Cup quarter-final.

That was okay with Roberts: "Sometimes you need to find other ways around that defensive line. But, you have to use your weapons to best effect.

"It worked very well for us in Wellington. Whether it does in Dublin remains to be seen," he added, adding spice to the excitement that is steadily building around Ireland's second-chance Sunday.

"It is a new cycle leading towards the next World Cup. We will be well aware of the revenge mission Ireland will be out to achieve over in Dublin," he said.



Amazing

"That game in Wellington was the most emotionally charged game I've played in. It was amazing to be a part of winning it.

"We will be using the motivation of losing the World Cup semi-final by one point to drive us forward. I am sure the Ireland boys will certainly try to do the same from the quarter-final.

"We're under no illusions. It is going to be very tough. We are playing away from home. We are playing an Ireland team who, obviously, we beat in the World Cup quarter-final.

"We've got to believe that if we go out there and put in a similar performance we will beat them in Dublin. We will certainly leave no stone unturned in our preparations to play Ireland."

Whether Roberts was taken aback with the ongoing Irish obsession over the return of Brian O'Driscoll was unclear. Like all good doctors, he can keep a straight face when necessary.

"Brian is out injured. For a guy in the twilight of his career, it will do Ireland no harm in blooding a younger player, who will hope to keep the jersey and make Brian fight his way back into the team.

"It is a positive thing and a negative thing, having an unknown quantity on the team. It can work very well in your favour. In the same breath, that inexperience can work against you."

The much-anticipated rematch is a simple, solvable equation. If Ireland win, it will restore dented pride and confidence for the four-match road ahead.

If Ireland lose, it could signal the long-term domination of Wales, who are developing for the future with a host of novice internationals.



Moulded

The theory goes that a young, impressionable squad, like Wales, can be moulded more easily than a more experienced one, like Ireland, that has tested out many approaches in style and tactics.

The importance of strategy cannot be over-estimated in an international where two nations appear to be equally matched. This pits Warren Gatland & Co. against Declan Kidney & Co.

"It is vital. It comes down to the preparation a couple of weeks out. The analysts will do their work. Certainly, the players have a lot of homework in the week leading up to the test match," agreed Roberts.

"The coaches play a huge part. We had a plan for that Ireland game (quarter-final) which proved to be effective. It is important that we work in the here and now.

"We will need a new plan going over to Dublin. We just need to make sure that, on that day, we execute that plan to good effect. That is something we did at the World Cup.

"I don't think we've put together a more complete game.

"If you do that in international rugby union, you are going to win."

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