Wales' Roberts in line for All Blacks recall

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 22:33
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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Veteran centre Jamie Roberts is in contention for a Wales recall against world champions New Zealand in Cardiff on Saturday as the Welsh aim for their first win over the All Blacks since 1953. 

The 93-times capped midfielder was left out of Wales's original squad for the end-of-year campaign.

But Roberts, now with London club Harlequins, was brought back into the fold after fellow British and Irish Lions centre Jonathan Davies suffered a long-term foot injury during this month's defeat to Australia.

"Jamie could obviously come into the equation," Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards said. "There are three or four to pick from there.

"Gats will evaluate it and come up with what he thinks is the best option."

With Gloucester's Owen Williams likely to start at inside centre against the world champion All Blacks, Roberts could be selected in the No.13 jersey by coach Warren Gatland in a bid to beef up the midfield.

"If Jamie plays, he would probably defend at 12 [inside centre] and we would swap round [to outside centre] in attack," defence specialist Edwards added. "That would be the plan if Jamie started or if he came on at half-time.

"I think it's a lot to ask Jamie to defend at 13. He's such a big man, a huge man. And it would be nice to see him and Sonny Bill [Williams] having a collision as well."

Tuesday saw Wales lose another Lion in Liam Williams after the wing/fullback suffered an abdominal injury in last week's uninspiring 13-6 home win against Georgia, while Cardiff Blues wing Alex Cuthbert has been sidelined with a calf muscle problem.

Even with a fully fit squad, Wales would face a huge task in trying to beat the All Blacks, to whom they've lost their 29 meetings. 

"Let's be honest, I have got a pretty tough job this week, probably one of the toughest jobs in world sport to be the defence coach against the All Blacks," said Edwards.

But the former Great Britain Rugby League international took heart from the way Scotland pushed New Zealand close before the All Blacks ran out 22-17 winners at Murrayfield last weekend. 

"You know me, I am up for a challenge, and hopefully on Saturday we can put pressure on through our line speed, but there is a lot more to defending than just having line speed.

"One of them is what Scotland did very well. They held the ball for 60 percent of the time. They had 60 percent territory and 60 percent possession."

Edwards added: "If we can do that, I will be very happy. Even though the All Blacks only had 40 percent possession, they still scored three tries and were still very dangerous, but obviously starving them of the ball is one way of keeping their attack quiet."

Agence France-Presse