Wales star Jamie Roberts has delivered a damning verdict on his performance against opening autumn opponents Australia and says he “fully respected” head coach Rob Howley’s decision to drop him.
Roberts has been restored to the Wales midfield for Saturday’s Principality Stadium appointment with Japan, when he will win an 85th cap and extend a 45-Test midfield partnership with fellow British and Irish Lion Jonathan Davies.
And the 30-year-old Harlequins centre is determined to bounce back after paying a hefty and unfamiliar price for Wales’ 32-8, five-try Wallabies defeat earlier this month by losing his place when they took on — and beat — Argentina six days ago.
“I could think of a few four-letter expletives to describe how I played against Australia,” Roberts said. “The hardest thing was probably trying to find a reason why, but it was nothing more and nothing less than a bad day at the office.
“I pride myself on consistency of performance, especially defensively, but it was a disappointing day personally and for the side. I certainly didn’t deserve to play last weekend.
“Having spoken to Rob after the Australia game, I fully respected his decision. It’s the nature of what we do. It’s a competitive squad here, and we know if we don’t perform, you don’t deserve to keep the jersey.
“So I did a bit of soul-searching and certainly had a few sleepless nights, but you learn from it and I am ready and raring to go again this weekend.
“I walked off the pitch against Australia with a big inkling that I was going to be dropped. I made mistakes — mistakes I don’t normally make — and that was the hardest thing was trying to find the reason why.
“I have been playing well this season and came into the camp with confidence. I had a poor performance. I am not over-thinking it.
“The competition in the squad is strong, especially at centre, and if you don’t play well you don’t deserve to keep the jersey.
“That is what drives us all forward, and hopefully that’s what will drive me forward this week with a point to prove. That’s what Test rugby is about, and we are all in a better place for it.”
Roberts was an unused replacement last weekend as Wales edged out the Pumas 24-20, but he has dismissed any notion of Japan’s Cardiff visit providing him with an opportunity for redemption.
“It’s not a shot at redemption — it would be selfish to say that — it’s about Wales winning and playing my part in that,” he added. “
You learn from it. It has given me a new perspective, given me a kick up the backside, which I hope, when I look back on this season, that I needed. That is the way I am treating it.”
Wales have beaten Japan eight times in nine Tests, and that domination should continue with something to spare on Saturday, building further momentum ahead of next week’s autumn finale against South Africa.
And one of the highlights could be an appearance off the bench by 18-year-old uncapped Ospreys wing Keelan Giles, whose devastating finishing ability and blistering pace have already seen him being mentioned in the same breath as Wales’ record try-scorer Shane Williams.
“I can’t remember a guy as evasive as Keelan since Shane Williams,” said Roberts, continuing the theme. “We have had a drill in training when we’re put up one on one with Keelan, and it has been quite embarrassing.
“He is a frightening prospect, and I hope he gets a chance to come on and show his worth and show his potential. He is a humble lad and he knows this is a big opportunity for him. He has the potential to cause carnage.”
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Roberts: Australia defeat left me with sleepless nights
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