sport

Roberts: Players are hurting

Jamie Roberts believes it is "hugely important'' that Wales make a statement when they tackle the world's top team on Saturday.

The current formbook suggests another punishing day at the office for Wales, who have suffered successive defeats against Argentina and Samoa during a painful autumn series.

This week's Millennium Stadium visitors New Zealand, meanwhile, are on a 19-Test unbeaten run and have not experienced defeat against Wales since 1953.

"It is hugely important we make a statement,'' said centre Roberts, who will win his 47th cap and be reunited with last season's World Cup and Six Nations midfield partner Jonathan Davies, who has recovered from a groin injury to start.

"There is more pressure on us after losing two games of the series. We hope people will see the best of us this week.

"We were very disappointed after Friday night (against Samoa), and it was a tough weekend. We had quite a lot of people asking what is going wrong.

"Nobody is hurting more than the players. It is frustrating because of the

high standards we have set ourselves over the last 12 months.

"We have sort of set a benchmark with what we have achieved and created an expectation of our performance. We have come under that significantly in the last two weeks, and it has been hugely frustrating.''

Wales players have found themselves in the firing line on social media and from ex-players. The reigning RBS 6 Nations champions and last year's World Cup semi-finalists have now lost five successive Tests.

"We need to pull together and it is only the players who can turn this around. There is no magic wand. We just have to work hard,'' Roberts added.

"Senior players are important in any side and I see myself as one of those players.

"We have to stand up and I have found the same situation with the (Cardiff) Blues this season. When results are going badly the fingers are pointed at the coaches and the senior players, and you can't avoid that. It is the nature of the best.

"It is all very well for ex-players to come out and say what they think.

"I am sure looking back when they were players, these same guys would not feel best pleased with comments from former internationals.

"Twitter and Facebook is a public forum that many fans feel they can abuse players on. People hide behind their keyboards and it is different if they came up to you and said those same things to your face.

"But it is freedom of speech and people can say what they want on there. If people feel the need to abuse players on there, then so be it. I am old enough and strong enough not to take any of that to heart.

"Some of the abuse is actually quite entertaining. We have to be mature and savvy enough to realise it is just people sitting behind their computers abusing you.''

Roberts has been in four Wales teams against the All Blacks, suffering four defeats as New Zealand scored a total of 119 points and conceded just 40.

But the 26-year-old has no doubt that taking on the All Blacks is just what

Wales need, despite failing to beat Argentina and Samoa.

"To play against the best side in the world, and probably the best team ever to have played the game, is such a motivation,'' he said.

"The chance to take on the All Blacks is a magical and unique experience. And we have to play rugby against them. We can't afford to tighten up our game and be robotic in our approach.

"We need to match these guys physically and defend hard as a unit, but we also need to go out and play with flair and produce a brand of rugby which we know can play.''