Jamie Roberts has told Wales they will never have a better chance to win the World Cup than the golden opportunity of 2019.
As Warren Gatland’s side step up their training and prepare to unveil their new strip for the tournament, their former centre insists they have to be considered among the favourites.
But Roberts – who played at the 2011 and 2015 tournaments – believes Gatland’s squad will also have to move their game up another level if they are to realise their dream of lifting the Webb Ellis trophy.
“I don’t think Wales will ever be better placed to win a World Cup,” said Roberts.
“We came pretty close in 2011 but with Wales’ pool and the form in which they’re in, it’s a great opportunity for them.”
Wales might be Six Nations Grand Slam champions, 14 games unbeaten and ranked second in the world, but Bath’s veteran says they will need to reach a new peak if they want to seal global glory.
Gatland’s side have had a stellar 12 months, sweeping the rest of the northern hemisphere aside while also downing Australia, South Africa, and Argentina.
The gruelling preparations for the Japan World Cup have now begun for the players and the former Lions star of the belief the team must make further strides forward in the months to come.
“Wales have been fantastic. They are on a 14-game winning streak which is mightily impressive, but it is all about building towards the World Cup,” he added.
“The coaching staff will impress upon the lads that they’ll have to go up another gear if they are to stand a chance of winning the World Cup and I think that’s very much the case.
“This team has a lot of young players and Wales can still improve, but it’s a fantastic opportunity for them.”
Wales will meet Georgia, Australia, Fiji and Uruguay in the pool stages in Japan and warm up for the tournament with home and away clashes with England and Ireland in August.
“I really hope Wales can develop their game further from the Six Nations and not get too many injuries,” said Roberts, who played at two World Cups in a glittering international career.
“That’s always the key. In 2015 we lost Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb on the eve of the competition.
“Things like that happen in sport, but I guess what Warren and the coaching group have done is develop a squad with depth to accommodate that if it happens.”
Wales’ current 42-man training squad will travel to Switzerland and Turkey for training camps as Gatland’s players will be pushed to their physical limits.
Roberts knows what is coming the way of the Welsh players from his experiences building up to the 2015 tournament and he added: “Wales are genuine contenders and they aren’t going in under the radar that’s for sure.
“It’s about living up to that tag and there is no doubt that will be an important talking point for the lads. I’m sure they’ll work harder than ever to create history.”