Joe Roberts Says Wales Will Have Too Much Hunger For Italy In Wooden Spoon Decider

Wales' Joe Roberts goes down injured during the Guinness Six Nations match at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff. Picture date: Sunday March 10, 2024. (Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images)

Joe Roberts Says Wales Will Have Too Much Hunger For Italy In Wooden Spoon Decider

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By Paul Jones

Joe Roberts believes Wales will avoid the embarrassment of a Six Nations whitewash this weekend by winning at the final attempt.

The centre, who was controversially picked ahead of George North to face France last weekend, is confident Warren Gatland’s misfiring team can beat Italy in Cardiff in the final round of the tournament.

“I am fully expecting the boys to go out there and get a win (against Italy). It is a hungry changing room,” said Roberts.

Wales head into next Saturday’s finale after suffering four successive defeats in this season’s tournament.

It has left them facing the possibility of a first wooden spoon since 2003, with Italy’s visit to Cardiff a shoot-out to avoid finishing bottom.

Italy have propped up the Six Nations table for eight seasons in a row, yet a 31-29 victory over Scotland has given them impetus to avoid that fate.

Wales will go into the game after a 45-24 loss against France, which followed defeats to Scotland, England and Ireland.

Roberts made his first Six Nations start in the France game, while Wales head coach Warren Gatland has handed Test debuts to five players during the competition – Cameron Winnett, Evan Lloyd, Archie Griffin, Alex Mann and Mackenzie Martin.

A sizeable post-World Cup rebuilding job is under way, with Wales having gone into the Six Nations following the international retirements of Dan Biggar and Leigh Halfpenny, unavailability of players like Liam Williams and Louis Rees-Zammit, plus injuries suffered by Gareth Anscombe, Dewi Lake, Jac Morgan and Taulupe Faletau, among others.

“That could be the best thing really, getting chucked in at the deep end sometimes,” added Scarlets centre Roberts.

“It’s sink or swim, really. Boys will be forced to perform.

“There is a lot of rugby to come, so hopefully I can get myself on that summer tour (to Australia) and get a bit more experience in this jersey. That is what this group needs as a whole.

“We need experienced players out there internationally, and come the end of the year there could be (new) boys with 10-plus caps in most positions.

“I fully back ourselves to put in performances and get wins. I have no doubt about that with this group.”

Wales led France 24-20 after an hour, but were then overpowered as Les Bleus ran in 25 unanswered points.

It was France’s fifth successive Six Nations win in the fixture, and also the most points Wales have conceded at home since the competition began 24 years ago.

Roberts added: “I think the last 15 minutes we might have overplayed a bit in our own half and our own 22. We went a bit lateral.
“We took our foot off the gas and we weren’t as accurate as we could have been in the bigger moments. .

“We are growing as a squad, and I am fully confident in the future we will be able to put games like that to bed with a bit of accuracy.

Former Wales forward turned rugby agent Derwyn Jones has claimed Gatland got his substitutions wrong against the French – and then pinned the blame for the defeat on the players.

Half-backs Tomos Williams and Sam Costelow were both replaced when Wales were ahead, with Gareth Davies and Ioan Lloyd coming on.

Jones said: “Wales were competitive in every aspect for an hour but Gatland and his coaching team made a couple of changes that changed the game.

“Tomos Williams was having an excellent game and it was interesting that Gatland said after that Costelow had played well, but he substituted both players and that changed the flow of the game.

“It’s disappointing that Gatland didn’t take responsibility for that and blamed the players. Two weeks ago he blamed the regions.

“He’s done a great job in previous years but it doesn’t feel like Gatland is able to deal with the pressure of being an international coach in the same way he was in the past.”

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