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Six Nations: Wales centre Jamie Roberts’ review as France dash Welsh Grand Slam dreams

6 min read

Jamie Roberts questions the selection policy of Eddie Jones as England slump to a fifth-placed finish in the Six Nations and reflects on France’s last-gasp win in Paris that wrecked Wales’ Grand Slam dreams

Wales and Dragons centre Jamie Roberts questioned Eddie Jones’ selection policy during the Six Nations and says it appears harder to get out of the England team than into it

Wales and Dragons centre Jamie Roberts joins Sky Sports to look back on a dramatic round five in the 2021 Six Nations.

Roberts reflects on a dramatic night in Paris, where a last-gasp Brice Dulin try dashed Wales’ Grand Slam dreams, while the pressure mounted on Eddie Jones as England crashed to a one-sided defeat in Dublin.

The Wales centre also gives his views on Scotland’s facile win over Italy and whether they can deny France a first championship since 2010…

Wales denied in Paris thriller

Alun Wyn Jones is dejected as France celebrate their winning try Alun Wyn Jones is dejected as France celebrate their winning try

I’m still catching my breath after Saturday night. I can’t remember witnessing a test match like that.

There have been some great Six Nations fixtures down through the years and I’ve been lucky to be involved in some, but I don’t think we’ve seen a game that has had so much excitement. It was a once-in-a-generation match.

Heartbreak for Wales; I was devastated for the lads at the end. It must be pretty tough for them waking up the following morning knowing the chance has gone begging. But I think for rugby fans across the world, that proves just how good the Six Nations is.

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Roberts has won 94 caps for Wales and three for the British and Irish Lions Roberts has won 94 caps for Wales and three for the British and Irish Lions

Wales took a step up from the England performance. It was their best performance of the Six Nations – for 68 minutes. Having rewatched that last 10 minutes, Wales made some poor decisions, whether that was their kicking options, their kick chase, collisions, and it cost them.

We have to credit France. To be able to execute that last 10 minutes, down to 14 and under fatigue, was the stuff of champions. That bodes well for them looking ahead to the 2023 World Cup.

It’s strange because it took France to get a red card to start playing. If they played like that all game they’d have beaten Wales quite convincingly. After the red card they thought there’s nothing to lose, just go for it. It worked in their favour. Only the French could have done that.

Who will lift the trophy?

France are chasing a first Six Nations title in 11 years France are chasing a first Six Nations title in 11 years

I can’t see France winning by 20 against Scotland but never write them off. If they get some momentum you can see how easily they score tries. It looks effortless at times.

This French side has the ability to score 50 points on Friday. They also have the ability to lose against Scotland, who I don’t think are as strong as Wales. The tournament proved that.

I know the Wales lads will be waiting in the stadium together. It’ll be a bit of a strange trophy lift if they do win it! But it wouldn’t be a bad consolation. I’m hugely proud of Wales’ endeavours this campaign and I really hope they’ve done enough to win it.

They’ll be gutted not to get the Grand Slam because that chance might only come around once or twice in those players’ careers. They know it was a huge opportunity but I hope they’ve done enough to win the championship. I think they deserve it.

Jones feeling the heat

England head coach Eddie Jones bemoaned his side’s lack of consistency after they were beaten by Ireland

Eddie Jones is under pressure and rightly so. A few England players have come out saying they know the path they’re on, but I can’t see it.

I’m trying to understand how they want to play to the game, and how on earth you can pick players who aren’t in form and haven’t had game time. That has come back to bite Jones.

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I just see a stubbornness in Jones not to change. I know that’s why he’s paid, that’s why he’s in the job, but there are players lighting up the Premiership who are waiting for their opportunity and he’s missed a massive chance to blood them this campaign.

I guess it’s about the here and now as a Test coach but the World Cup is in two years’ time and when you look at Marcus Smith, Alex Dombrandt and Sam Simmonds – with the right exposure over the next few seasons, they are World Cup match-winners.

But they’re not getting that exposure. Jones just persists with Billy Vunipola and Owen Farrell. It seems that England side is harder to get out of than into at the minute. It hasn’t worked for them this campaign and something has to change.

England fail to kick on

England were punished for some poor kicking against Ireland England were punished for some poor kicking against Ireland

England’s kicking game was poor against Ireland. They get momentum in that middle third of the pitch and you think England are going to have a rumble here and knock the door down, whether that’s tight or to width, but they just kick the ball away.

Not kicked to compete, just pointless kicking with no good outcome. It really baffled me.

When was the last time we spoke about an England side getting bullied, with Billy Vunipola and Maro Itoje losing collisions for fun? You have to credit the Irish pack. When they turn up they are formidable.

Ireland find their groove

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell was proud of his players as they wrapped up their Six Nations campaign with victory over England

It was smart rugby by Ireland. It was attritional and very industrious. It shows the important of a solid kicking game.

Conor Murray at nine, I don’t think any other scrum-half in the British Isles has a kicking game like his at Test level. His ability to box-kick long, to get them on the money every time, while Johnny Sexton’s tactical nous and understanding of the game is second to none. Dan Biggar will come close but Johnny is pretty special tactically. When you have those guys pulling the strings, if they get it right it’s very hard to beat.

Murray and Sexton may not necessarily play the game at that high a tempo and offer Ireland this fast-paced Leinster-modelled game, but they’re both extremely streetwise and their kicking game is second to none.

Robbie Henshaw was impressive and Keith Earls, never write him off. He was on that Lions tour with me in 2009, I think I was the second youngest behind him and he’s still carving it up.

Scotland must step up

Duhan van der Merwe scored two of Scotland's eight tries against Italy Duhan van der Merwe scored two of Scotland’s eight tries against Italy

Scotland cut loose against Italy but so did every other team. Friday is the acid test for Scotland, going out to Paris. They’re playing a French side who are hungry for a 20-point bonus-point win. I wouldn’t write Scotland off though. I think this is going to be a tight Test match.

The Wales game killed Scotland. That was probably the first time in a long time I was concerned about Wales going to Murrayfield.

With 55 minutes on the clock I thought, ‘Scotland have got this’. They were in the ascendancy, they looked far more powerful and clinical, and were managing the game far better. Then bang, the red card turned the game on its head and they self-destructed.

That would have been a real sucker punch for Gregor Townsend after what they did at Twickenham. You talk about the Six Nations being a campaign of momentum. They got the dream start they wanted but couldn’t back it up.



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