Six Nations 2014: Warren Gatland backed to help Wales defend title

Last Updated: 31/01/14 2:32pm

  • Share:

Sky Bet

Jamie Roberts says the return of Warren Gatland to the Wales helm will boost the defending champions' chances of Six Nations success.

Gatland is back in charge of Wales after missing last season's tournament while he concentrated on British and Irish Lions business.

"He (Gatland) is not afraid to give young players a chance, as he showed before the last World Cup with Toby (Faletau) and Sam (Warburton), and I sure he will do the same in the next 12 months and build towards the future."
Jamie Roberts

The Kiwi clinched a historic 2-1 victory over Australia but Racing Metro centre Roberts is confident he will be able to steer the Welsh to an unprecedented hat-trick of championship titles, starting against Italy at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

Even in his absence last year, Wales won the 2013 showpiece, recovering from an opening day loss at home to Ireland by reeling off four successive victories that culminated with a record 30-3 demolition of England.

Gatland signed a new contract to stay with Wales until 2019 last month and Roberts, who has won all 53 of his caps during a Gatland coaching reign that begin in early 2008, said: "Warren is an honest man with the player.

"He will tell you if you have played well and if you have played terribly. That is consistent throughout the environment he has created, whether it be conditioning, skills, matches, post-match analysis.

"He has built a good strength in depth and he brings out the best in everyone. Having him for another four or five years (Gatland recently agreed a long-term contract extension) ensures that the machine and pathway keep developing.

"He is not afraid to give young players a chance, as he showed before the last World Cup with Toby (Faletau) and Sam (Warburton), and I sure he will do the same in the next 12 months and build towards the future.

"From a player's point of view it is great news he is staying because he is a fantastic coach."

Quite consistent

Roberts' views are echoed by his Wales and Racing Metro team-mate Dan Lydiate, who starts on Saturday following a hectic week that saw his first child - daughter Lucy - born in Paris.

"Warren is quite consistent in that you know where you stand with him," Lydiate said.

"He is an honest guy who knows what works. The results of the last few years show that, so we don't need to change things all the time. You try and stick to your strengths and keep evolving by working on your weaknesses."

Wales should encounter few problems against an injury-hit Italian side on Saturday, one that arrives in Cardiff with a fly-half, two wings and an outside centre numbering just seven caps between them.

The Azzurri boast huge experience up-front, led by cap centurions Sergio Parisse, Martin Castrogiovanni and Marco Bortolami, and although Wales will take nothing for granted, the form guide and head-to-heads suggest an emphatic success.

"We are a well-oiled machine, especially after the last two campaigns, and we know if we get all our big players fit and firing we are a very dangerous outfit," Roberts added.

"Italy are vastly-improved. It took us 60 or 70 minutes to crack them two years ago, and last year it hammered down with rain in Rome. It will be the same this weekend.

"We have been together for a long time and the players all know the game-plan. It is about modifying that again and producing the goods on Saturday.

"It's important we go out and play with confidence and believe that we are champions, which we are.

"We need to go out and express ourselves, whether that is running from behind our try-line when it's on to go. It is important we do that and embrace situations on the field and go on and express ourselves as players."

  • Share:

Related

Six Nations 2014: Wales v Italy

Warren Gatland: positives and things to work on

Gatland happy with tough win

Warren Gatland was "pretty satisfied" after Wales launched their Six Nations campaign with a 23-15 win over Italy.

Jamie Roberts breaks through the line, setting up Scott Williams for Wales' second try

Wales hold off Italy

Wales got their defence of the Six Nations title off to a winning start with a far from convincing 23-15 win over Italy.

Wales begin the defence of their Six Nations title against Italy at a packed out Millennium Stadium.

Wales 23 Italy 15

Wales were far from convincing as they got the defence of their Six Nations title off to a winning start in Cardiff.

Most Popular

Features

Street League support

Street League support

Soccer AM has announced it is to support the national football charity Street League again this season.

Phillips: Five-star Foxes

Phillips: Five-star Foxes

Leicester forwards coach Kevin Phillips analyses each of their five goals against Manchester United.

Ivan crucial to Barca

Ivan crucial to Barca

Ivan Rakitic’s displays are pivotal to Barcelona’s fine form, Graham Hunter told Revista.