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Roberts: Expect more from Wales

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Sportal.co.nz     18 Mar 2013     Getty Images

Wales' 30-3 drubbing of England at an emotion-charged Millennium Stadium meant they retained championship silverware - a feat they last achieved in 1979.

Having also reached a World Cup semi-final during the past 18 months, Wales will now target moving to the next level and passing an exam they have failed so many times - beating rugby's southern hemisphere superpowers.

Victories over South Africa, Australia and New Zealand remain the big prize, and that is the challenge awaiting Roberts and company as they build towards World Cup 2015.

"I think there is more to come - that's the scary thing," Wales centre Roberts said.

"Our defence is outstanding, there is more to come in attack, and competition for places is very good in the squad. That is what drives us forward as a team.

"When you have got competition like that, you are on your toes and you are only ever a game away from being dropped. That is what drives us forward more than anything - that competitive edge.

"You don't win championships with 23 players, you win it with 35. Guys like (lock) Andrew Coombs, who would be disappointed after losing his starting place after the first few games, have been magnificent in this tournament.

"It's guys like that who win championships, guys who are maybe holding the tackle pads in training and put in the hard work when they're not in the starting XV."

With a neat sense of symmetry, Wales beat England by exactly the same score they trailed Ireland by after 45 minutes in their opening game six weeks ago.

Although Wales lost that encounter, despite then scoring 19 unanswered points, they bounced back by winning three successive away fixtures before reducing England to rubble.

Just as significantly, no team has scored a try against them for almost six hours, which showcases the brilliant strategic brain of defence specialist Shaun Edwards.

"Chatting to a few of the boys, if anything it's a better feeling than last year," Roberts added.

"From where we've come from in that first half of the Irish game to winning on the road - three on the bounce - and finally delivering at the Millennium Stadium, it's very pleasing.

"We took a bit of a beating from a lot of people after that Ireland game, and certainly the run of results (eight successive defeats) leading up to that. It was a very hard place to be.

"But it just goes to show the resilience of the boys. Rugby is percent attitude, and the resilience the boys have shown during the last six or seven weeks has come to the fore.

"To concede just three points against a team of England's potency is very, very good for us and a tap on the back to Shaun Edwards.

"From a personal point of view it's been an absolute privilege to work with him. He's a great character, he knows his stuff inside and out, and to learn from someone of his calibre is up there with one of my greatest experiences as a rugby player.

"To see him smiling at the end was very pleasing. It's a better buzz than last year, if anything, because our games have been built on solid grunt and attitude."

Roberts, Wales' defensive captain on the pitch, delivered his best display of the tournament opposite powerhouse England centres Manu Tuilagi and Brad Barritt, concluding arguably the most hectic week in his life.

Not only did he have to prepare for facing England, he also sat two important exams as part of his medical finals. It would have been a schedule to send most people into meltdown.

"Yes, it's been difficult and there is a lot of pressure," he said.

"But I made sure I worked hard enough three months ago. I sat down then, had a word with myself and knew I had to do hard work back then.

"It's not about turning up two weeks before the exams and working hard. It's about putting that work in place so that come the Six Nations I was just topping up my knowledge.

"The exams were pretty tough - I don't think they were meant to be easy - but hopefully I've managed to combine the two, and if I pass I will be a very proud person.

"It's just a big thanks to the medical school for helping me through it, and to (Wales interim head coach) Rob Howley and the Welsh Rugby Union as well."

Attention now turns to selection for this summer's British and Irish Lions tour of Australia, with Welsh representation likely to be in double figures - Roberts included - following their Six Nations heroics.

"Obviously, there will be a lot of stuff discussed about the Lions over the next couple of months and people will put their hands up, but it is up to the coach - it's out of your hands," Roberts added.

"The most important thing is that Wales have retained the championship. It's what it is all about."