Roberts: I'm lucky to be starting
February 4, 2012
Jamie Roberts believes Wales will have to perform better than they did in the World Cup quarter-final win over Ireland © Getty Images
Jamie Roberts has admitted it was "touch and go" whether he would be available for Wales' Six Nations opener against Ireland in Dublin on Sunday.
Centre Roberts and fly-half Rhys Priestland have both been declared fit to start the Aviva Stadium clash, despite playing limited roles during Wales' preparations. Cardiff Blues star Roberts has not featured competitively since Christmas due to a knee injury, while Scarlets fly-half Priestland suffered knee trouble during a Heineken Cup game two weeks ago.
Wales' third injury worry this week - flanker Dan Lydiate - will miss the trip to Dublin because of an ankle problem and be replaced by former Wales captain Ryan Jones.
"It was touch and go," Roberts said. "I haven't played any competitive rugby since late December, but I went to Poland last week and had some good conditioning and recovery work.
"I started running at the end of the week and I have done some full contact work this week. I am just delighted to be part of such a huge match. I am sure I will be blowing a bit in the first ten minutes, but then I will settle down. I hope I am good enough after six to eight weeks out."
Lydiate apart, Wales coach Warren Gatland has also lost prop Gethin Jenkins (knee), hookers Matthew Rees (calf strain) and Lloyd Burns (neck), plus locks Luke Charteris (wrist) and Alun-Wyn Jones (toe) from his Dublin plans. But he can still field ten survivors from the team that claimed a comprehensive World Cup quarter-final win against Ireland in Wellington four months ago, with Jones, wing Alex Cuthbert, prop Rhys Gill and locks Bradley Davies and Ian Evans proving the exceptions.
Roberts said: "We not only need to emulate that World Cup game, but also improve on it, because nothing less will do. We need to produce the perfect game to beat Ireland, that is what it will take. We were very close to being perfect in the World Cup game, and we all need to put our hands up and produce again.
"Ireland away first up is one of the toughest challenges you can have in the tournament. Their players are playing well domestically, and they have the motivation of the World Cup and the defeat to us last year.
"The winning team in the first Six Nations game can get on a snowball, while the losers go away knowing that all the pressure is on them to win their next match to stay in the hunt."
Hooker Huw Bennett will win his 50th cap - only the second Wales hooker to achieve that feat after Garin Jenkins - while Gatland clocks up a half-century of games in charge of Wales since he was appointed for the 2008 Six Nations campaign.
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