Roberts 'touch and go' to face Italy
February 29, 2012
Wales skills coach Neil Jenkins has conceded that centre Jamie Roberts is "touch and go" to be fit in time to face Italy next week.
Cardiff Blues centre Roberts was forced off at half-time of last weekend's dramatic 19-12 victory over England at Twickenham with a medial ligament injury; his replacement Scott Williams went on to score the clinching try and seal a Triple Crown success. Roberts, 25, returned from a six-week lay-off after an injury to the same knee just in time for the start of Wales' Six Nations campaign, and there are fears that he may not only miss the Italy game, but the potential Grand Slam decider with France a week later.
Jenkins says the three-quarter in progressing well, and that Matthew Rees is back in training while fellow hooker and calf injury victim Huw Bennett is doubtful to face the Azzurri.
He said: "With Jamie, we are waiting to find out. He is probably going to be touch and go for the next couple of weeks before the Italy game, but he is progressing well, his rehab is going well so fingers crossed he could well make that game. Matthew is back with us training so that is good news and hopefully he will be back and available for selection so there is good news on that front.
"Huw Bennett is progressing, it might be a bit soon for the Italy game and hopefully he could be involved for the France game."
Wales also expect James Hook to be ready to face Italy after he was withdrawn from the matchday 22 to face England due to chicken pox, while lock Luke Charteris could yet come into contention to face France as he returns to the Newport Gwent Dragons squad this weekend from a long-term wrist injury. Victory at Twickenham has set Wales on course for a third Grand Slam in seven years, with the final fixture against the also currently-unbeaten French being a possible winner-takes-all encounter.
But Jenkins insists Wales will not be taking their eyes off preparing to face the Italians, who have shown signs of further improvement despite defeats to France, England and Ireland. He said: "We have a very tough game coming up against Italy and we will not be looking past that.
"If we win that it sets up a Grand Slam game against France but let's take it one game at a time. We want to get this Italy game up and running and hopefully after that we can look ahead to France. Italy will play a tough physical game. They caused Ireland problems for 40 minutes on the weekend, they should have beaten England at home, and they had chances to win games at home last year so we know we are in for a tough afternoon."
Jenkins also welcomed the news that Wales centre Jonathan Davies has signed a new two-year contract with the Scarlets. Davies' signing bucks the current trend of the Welsh regions losing their top players to clubs in England and France.
James Hook, Mike Phillips and Lee Byrne already ply their trade in France, with Luke Charteris, Gethin Jenkins and Aled Brew set to follow them. But Davies turned down reported interest from Northampton to stay on at Parc y Scarlets, and Jenkins said: "It's good news, he is a hugely talented player, he is playing exceptionally well and is a key member of this Welsh side.
"It is key to keep our best players playing in Wales and it's good to see him sign for the Scarlets again. Warren Gatland has always said he wants our best guys playing in Wales if possible and that's no different now if, but it's not an easy one to get around when players decide to play elsewhere.
"I don't blame them as they have a living to make and careers to keep pursuing and if they go across the water to France we have to back them in that, but obviously we want the best players playing in Wales and staying here as long as possible."
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