Roberts linked with Racing exit


Published: Monday 23rd February 2015 by The News Editor

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Wales star Jamie Roberts will go into next Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations clash against France amid speculation that he could be released early from his contract with European Champions Cup quarter-finalists Racing Metro.

A media report in Wales on Monday claimed that Racing are considering letting him go after completing two years of a three-year deal in the French capital, with financial constraints and potential World Cup selection cited as reasons.

If that scenario unfolds, it would potentially create a dual-contract opportunity for Roberts with the Welsh Rugby Union and a Welsh region.

Wales assistant coach Shaun Edwards said on Monday that he had not spoken with Roberts about the report, but he reiterated the Wales coaching team’s view that they would like all leading players playing at home.

“To be honest, I just want Jamie to concentrate on one thing this week, and that’s France, which is one of the reasons why I haven’t spoken to him about it,” Edwards said.

“He has got to be thinking about (Mathieu) Bastareaud, (Yoann) Huget and his job of leading our defence this week.

“I think his form has been really good. In the autumn, I thought he was pushing to be one of the best centres in the world.

“It’s a big help, there is no doubt about that (having the players based in Wales).

“I remember when Mike Phillips was with Bayonne. He played 30-odd games that season, he was in great form and they wanted him back because he was their best player.

“In those down-weeks where players normally have a rest and get their body back together, they have to go back and play again.

“In the end, it is very taxing, and there is also the travelling there and back. You have to factor that in as well.

“All in all, from a well-being point of view and playing longer, I always try to explain to players that you have to have longevity in the game of rugby.”

Defence specialist Edwards, meanwhile, criticised rugby union’s so-called ‘choke tackle’ during a press conference at Wales’ training base.

The legal tackling technique has become a frequent sight during recent seasons.

In executing it, a tackled player is deliberately hit man and ball around the chest and shoulder area and prevented from going to ground. This creates a maul situation and can gain the defending team a turnover scrum.

It has been employed with particular success by reigning Six Nations champions Ireland, whose defence coach Les Kiss has been widely credited with pioneering it at Test level.

Edwards, though, is not a fan, claiming: “I think the choke tackle is very, very dangerous.

“To me, it’s a bit of a blight on the game at the moment. It encourages people to tackle high.

“Everyone is going on about concussions and people tackling too high. Well, let’s start with that.”

Addressing the assembled media, Edwards asked: “Does anyone here think it adds to the game in any way, shape or form? Do any of you think it makes the game more exciting?”

Ireland will arrive in Cardiff next month for a Six Nations showdown, but top of Wales’ immediate agenda is the trip to Stade de France.

A fourth successive Six Nations victory over Les Bleus would keep Wales in title contention, continuing their revival following an opening loss to England.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland is due to announce his team on Tuesday, with wing George North and prop Samson Lee both poised for comebacks.

North was rested against Scotland eight days ago after taking two heavy knocks to his head during the England game, while prop Lee was concussed in the same fixture.

While Lee looks set to replace Ospreys tighthead Aaron Jarvis, it could be that North takes over from his fellow 2013 British and Irish Lion Alex Cuthbert, lining up in a Wales back-three alongside Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams.

“When you are picking from a healthy squad, there are always going to be some close calls,” Edwards added.

“It’s certainly better than having the other sort of headache, when you are struggling for players.”

Asked about the back-three selection this week, Edwards said: “It is tight. Warren picks the team, but I would say I was pretty happy with the back-three in Scotland. They worked well together.

“But we have to remember how impressive George has been over the years. Those things have to be factored in, and we will come up with an educated decision.”

Published: Monday 23rd February 2015 by The News Editor

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