Wales midfield giant Jamie Roberts has admitted that Scott Williams’s try-scoring heroics at Twickenham left him feeling “very nervous” about his chances of facing Italy today.
Roberts has overcome a knee injury and lines up in an unchanged back division as Wales aim to close in on the RBS 6 Nations title and grand slam.
It will be the Cardiff Blues centre’s 43rd cap, but despite his proven Test-match pedigree he endured an anxious time until coach Warren Gatland named the team.
“Scott’s try at Twickenham was something pretty special,” said 6ft 4in Roberts. “His all-round game was very good, and from a selection point of view I am massively pleased to get the nod this week.
“I know I am one game away from being dropped. With Scott playing well, it puts added pressure on myself and Jon (Davies).
“It is as simple as that, and I know I have to repay the faith Warren has shown in me, otherwise I won’t be playing next week.Playing for Wales is never a given, and I was probably more nervous before this week than I ever have been in my career.
“I was very nervous before team selection. That selection, that pressure for positions is certainly driving everyone on, and you need it in a successful squad.”
Wales already have the Triple Crown in their trophy cabinet, with victories at home to Italy and France next Saturday guaranteeing a second Six Nations title and Grand Slam of Gatland’s four-year reign.
As such, Italy coach Jacques Brunel has underlined the enormity of his team’s task against Wales in Cardiff.
Brunel has acclaimed Wales as “the strongest team in the tournament”.
And despite the Azzurri boss making seven changes following a 42-10 defeat against Ireland last time out, Italy will arrive at the Millennium Stadium as rank outsiders.
Six previous Cardiff visits have produced an average scoreline of 39-14 in Wales’ favour, and a similar outcome is widely anticipated this time around.
“Wales are the strongest team in the tournament,” said Brunel.
“They have a lot of quality. They reached the World Cup semi-finals and could have gone further than that.
“They have rhythm, they are accustomed to playing together and they possess so many great players.
“It will be an interesting challenge for us, especially for our defence, which needs to be better than it was in Dublin.”