Jamie Roberts focused on re-establishing his authority after Wallaby washout

Wales centre knows Lions hopes will be dented if he loses international place

Wales’s Jamie Roberts will win his 85th cap against Japan. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire.

Wales’s Jamie Roberts will win his 85th cap against Japan. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire.

 

Wales v Japan

Principality Stadium

BBC 1, Saturday, 2.30

Jamie Roberts has made his reputation as one of the leading midfielders of his generation by confronting problems head on. That was his approach when he was told last week he had been dropped to the bench by Wales for the first time in seven years.

It was Roberts’s 30th birthday when he was told he would not start against Argentina last Saturday. He remained on the bench and it will be Japan at the Principality Stadium on Saturday who will feel the controlled fury of the powerful Lions centre.

“I could think of a few four-letter expletives to describe how I played against Australia,” said Roberts. “The hardest thing was probably trying to find a reason why, but it was nothing more or less than a bad day for someone who prides himself on consistency of performance, especially defensively. I did not deserve to play against Argentina.

Soul-searching

“We have a competitive squad and if you don’t perform, you don’t keep the jersey. I fully respected the decision and my responsibility was to help the team prepare. It was an alien feeling, I had sleepless nights as I did some soul-searching but one I learned a lot from.”

Roberts has played in Tests for the Lions on their past two tours and knows there will be no hat-trick unless he retains his place in the Wales team. He has been a core part of Wales’s gameplan this decade, running straight and hard, and tackling harder, but as Test rugby speeds up so multi-tasking becomes desirable.

“It was important not to overthink the reasons for my performance against Australia,” he said. “By nature I am a thinker but it’s professional sport and you move on. I’ve been playing well enough for Harlequins this season. This week is not about redemption but an opportunity to show that what happened was an anomaly. It is about Wales winning and playing my part in that.

“I wouldn’t say [I’m] unfairly bracketed in terms of style: it is what I do and it hasn’t served me too badly. I’m working on my weaknesses.”

While Roberts will be winning his 85th Wales cap, the 18-year-old wing Keelan Giles hopes to make his Test debut from the bench. Wales have opted for a mix of experience and potential against opponents who defeated them in Tokyo three years ago when they were without 16 Lions. Five of the Japan lineup started last year’s World Cup win over South Africa.

“I’m a realist and I know it’ll be difficult but we’ve got a couple of plans and I think we can create some pressure,” said Jamie Joseph, who succeeded Eddie Jones as the coach of Japan. “If we’re able to do that the boys will score some tries: people do some funny things under pressure.” Guardian Service WALES: Liam Williams; L Halfpenny, J Davies, J Roberts, A Cuthbert; G Anscombe, Lloyd Williams; N Smith, S Baldwin, S Lee, C Hill, A-W Jones, D Lydiate, S Warburton (c), J King. Replacements: K Dacey, R Gill, S Andrews, J Ball, R Moriarty, G Davies, S Davies, K Giles. JAPAN: K Matsushima; A Yamada, T Lafaele, H Tatekawa, K Fukuoka; Y Tamura, F Tanaka; S Nakatani, S Horie, K Hatakeyama, K Kajikawa, S Anise, M Ilaua, S Nunomaki, A Mafi. Replacements: T Hino, K Yammoto, H Ito, U Helu, S Matsuhashi, Y Mimura, K Uchida, A Lotoahea. Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa).

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