Jamie Roberts welcomes Wales centre struggle

Jamie Roberts and Gavin Henson will resume their centre pairing against England
Jamie Roberts and Gavin Henson resume their centre pairing against England

Jamie Roberts says the competition for a World Cup berth is bringing the best out of the Wales contenders.

The British and Irish Lions star had Jon Davies with him at centre in the loss in England but partners Gavin Henson in Saturday's return in Cardiff.

Henson has not started for Wales since 2009 and has yet to make a World Cup.

"The competition for places is certainly pushing us all along and it's mine and Gavin's turn to put a tick in the box this weekend," Roberts said.

"I thought Jon played very well last weekend and unfortunately four doesn't go into two.

"They're two different players. Obviously Gav hasn't played in quite a while, [although he] played in the Barbarians game [in June].

"But he's raring to go, he's trained well and he's looking sharp so we'll see how it goes.

"Obviously you can't say too much before he puts in a full performance, so I'm sure he's willing to take that opportunity.

"Scott Williams has certainly come through in training and proved Saturday when he came off the bench that he can handle rugby at this level."

Roberts says there was some encouragement in last weekend's Twickenham defeat, but admits that there is no substitute for victory.

"There was a lot of positives from last week, we played very well in patches in both attack and defence," Roberts added.

"But the black and white of it is we lost the game of rugby and in no uncertain terms the boys weren't pleased with that.

"We showed a lot of endeavour last week and a lot of players put their hands up, a lot of players played well and it's about building on that.

"These next two games we're playing England at home and Argentina next week and any sort of win would suffice, but we want to continue playing in the same vein."

England coach Martin Johnson has made 13 changes for Saturday's return encounter at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, but Roberts says the selection holds few surprises and plenty of quality.

"Wales versus England at home doesn't get bigger for a Welsh rugby player, it's the ultimate and hopefully it'll be a full house at the stadium," Roberts said.

"There's no real players who we haven't seen before, there's a huge threat from their back three.

"[Full-back Ben] Foden and [wing Chris] Ashton are probably the most potent duo in northern hemisphere rugby at the moment, and obviously Shontayne [Hape] and Mike [Tindall] in the centre are very physical, very clever players and very experienced players as well."

Wales team to face England at Millennium Stadium on Saturday:

James Hook; George North, Jamie Roberts, Gavin Henson, Shane Williams; Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips; Paul James, Lloyd Burns, Craig Mitchell, Luke Charteris, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton, Toby Faletau.

Replacements: Huw Bennett, Ryan Bevington, Josh Turnbull, Justin Tipuric, Tavis Knoyle, Scott Williams, Aled Brew.

Wales' preliminary World Cup squad

Forwards: Scott Andrews, Gethin Jenkins (Blues), Lloyd Burns (Dragons), Huw Bennett, Ryan Bevington, Adam Jones, Paul James (Ospreys), Ken Owens, Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Craig Mitchell (Exeter), Bradley Davies, Sam Warburton, Martyn Williams (Blues), Luke Charteris, Danny Lydiate, Toby Faletau (Dragons), Ryan Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Jonathan Thomas, Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Josh Turnbull, (Scarlets),Gareth Delve (Melbourne Rebels), Andy Powell (Sale Sharks).

Backs: Michael Phillips (Bayonne), Lloyd Williams (Blues), Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Blues), James Hook (Perpignan), Jonathan Davies, Stephen Jones, Rhys Priestland, Scott Williams (Scarlets) Gavin Henson (unattached), Leigh Halfpenny (Blues), Lee Byrne (Clermont Auvergne), Aled Brew (Dragons), Shane Williams (Ospreys), George North (Scarlets).

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