Six Nations
Roberts backs under-fire Howley
ESPN Staff
February 5, 2013
Wales' Jamie Roberts dives over to score, Wales v Italy, Six Nations, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, March 10, 2012
Wales will go to France on Saturday looking to secure their first win in nine games © Getty Images
Related Links
Players/Officials: Shaun Edwards | Rob Howley | Jamie Roberts
Tournaments/Tours: Six Nations
Teams: France | Ireland | Wales

Wales centre Jamie Roberts has lent his backing to under-fire interim coach Rob Howley ahead of their trip to France at the weekend.

Wales are on an eight-match losing run at the moment, with their last victory coming against France last year - the match that clinched the 2012 Six Nations Grand Slam. Howley took charge of their summer tour to Australia, which ended in a 3-0 series defeat, and two of their four autumn internationals. He presided over the team that lost to Samoa and Argentina and then assisted head coach Warren Gatland for their defeats to Australia and New Zealand.

Howley was also in sole charge for their match against Ireland at the weekend, with Gatland granted a sabbatical to focus on his role as British & Irish Lions head coach, and despite seeing his side crash to another defeat, Roberts - who started at inside centre against Ireland - insists that the players have full confidence in Howley's ability as a coach.

"We are 100 per cent behind Rob Howley, without a doubt," Roberts told Wales Online. "In comparisons with the standards we have set as a team, that first half-hour was very disappointing and it cost us the game. It is one of the worst Wales performances I have ever been involved in.

"Pundits are always going to say negative things but the important thing is we stay tight as a group. Saturday night hurt. I could see it on the faces of all the boys. The fact is, if we defended better in the first 20 minutes we would have won the match. But we were 20 points down before we touched the ball.

"It is hugely frustrating because we all know the structure is there for us to win rugby games but we made the wrong decisions on the ball against Ireland. We all know that where there are chances to score tries there are chances to win games and we know we can cause France problems on Saturday."

Wales now sit in 10th in the latest International Rugby Board rankings - their joint lowest ever position - and Howley may now considering shuffling his pack for their trip to Paris on Saturday. Back-row forward Ryan Jones, hooker Richard Hibbard, prop Paul James and flanker Justin Tipuric all have powerful cases for inclusion. If Ospreys openside Tipuric starts, then it can be assumed that skipper Sam Warburton will either be switched to the blindside role or left out.

With this in mind, Howley's assistant Shaun Edwards insists it is right for some players to be sweating on whether they will be selected. "Everyone will be nervous, and that is the way it should be in international rugby," Edwards said. "Even the experienced players should know they are two bad games away from being in jeopardy. It should be like that with the All Blacks, and any international team around the world."

Asked specifically about Jones, who has captained Wales more times than any other player, Edwards added: "Ryan brings a wealth of experience and technical know-how. He was outstanding last year coming off the bench in the Six Nations. Your replacements are a huge part of the modern day game, and it is a 23-man effort.

"When Ryan starts he can play in a variety of positions. He is an outstanding all-round rugby player."

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