By Alan Dymock
RW spent some time with national captain’s Chris Robshaw, Jamie Heaslip, Kelly Brown plus Wales’ defensive leader Jamie Roberts at Twickenham to chat about the Six Nations. Let’s see what the young men had to say for themselves…
Right, gentlemen, before we get on to why you are all dressed as extras from Come Fly With Me, we should probably be looking at the Six Nations. What do we think of that first game, with England hosting Scotland and Wales hosting Ireland?
Chris Robshaw: It is always special to play at Twickenham no matter which team you are playing. It is a massive honour to run out in front of 80,000 people. I think whoever you face, you want to hit the ground running. In a tournament you want to get off with a win and a strong performance. Hopefully if you perform well then the result will take care of itself. The beauty of finishing on a high note with the New Zealand game is that we set a benchmark now and want to keep on improving.
Kelly Brown: In the autumn the three games did not go as we’d hoped. I think the reason why you struggle is because of a lack of consistency of performance. You know, a soft try, or a poor chase. In the Six Nations we need to nail a high level of performance for 80 minutes to be in the game.
Jamie Roberts: The beauty of professional sport is that you get a chance to redeem yourself after that last game. You put it behind you and learn from it, then you meet on a Monday and can’t afford to dwell. We have to look at our balance and getting kicking right, and the physical side right. Sport moves very, very quickly.
Jamie Heaslip: Obviously I know Wales did not win a game but they played tough sides. They were only within a score or two of winning these games, so they’re not suddenly a bad team. We know the challenge ahead of us and have to go to the Millennium Stadium, where the atmosphere is so incredible. They usually close the roof, so the noise and constant singing makes for a great occasion.
You will not be going it alone, though. How will the new caps take to this level of intensity?
JR: We have some new guys and sometimes injuries force your hand. Often that’s the only way to get in and play. Cardiff’s Andries Pretorius and Josh Navidi are in. Andries is a big presence and will add dynamism. He should put pressure on Toby Faletau. Josh has developed a lot in the last few years, building himself up. He’s a strong ball carrier who has benefited from a solid run of games.
JH: With lots of injuries, in November guys were able to take the jersey and they did well. They were an inexperienced group, so what we did was focus and give clarity on what we had to do. If you are really clear about what you have to do then all of that emotion and passion can come out at that precise moment. We try to keep it feeling like an elite club.
KB: Obviously there are a few guys I haven’t yet seen play. I am excited about seeing guys like Pete Horne and Chris Fusaro, though. Both guys have a big future and it is great to see guys coming in from a pro environment. Guys that I had seen develop at Glasgow Warriors. I joined the Scotland squad in 2005 and a lot of guys have come in since. It is a very welcoming squad.
CR: It will be an easy transition for the new caps. Look at Joe Launchbury in the autumn. He came on and was exceptional. He has fitted in so well. Stuart has been very open about the culture of the squad and how he wants it to be. You want players to come in and be comfortable.
How about the other squads, who will be your toughest opponents?
CR: There are great players in every team. Look at Thierry Dusautoir, Sam Warburton, Sean O’Brien, Ross Rennie or Sergio Parisse. You know you always have to be on top of your game. It is great for the fans because there are key battles in every game. On any given day everyone can beat each other and that’s why people love watching the Six Nations, it’s the passion and excitement.
JH: I haven’t studied the squad because I’ve been involved with the Leinster, but there are some big boys around. We played Edinburgh two weeks ago and going up against David Denton, he’s a big ball-carrier. Then you have Chris (Robshaw) who is a workhorse. Who else, Sergio Parisse, Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric. The list is endless.
JR: Whoever you’re facing, they will be quality players. The likes of Gordon D’Arcy, Brad Barritt and Wesley Fofana are top, top players. You have to be able to claim that 12 jersey and stick to the gameplan.
With all the pressure, what do you do to unwind?
KB: All I have to do to is go home. I have a wife and two kids. You can do all the training, but when you come back home from being away you are back to being ‘Dad’. That is the best way to forget about everything else.
JR: I like doing a bit of work and I have my medical finals at university coming up. I also like chilling out, having a coffee with the boys. I will look at learning French after my finals but after eight years studying, I really should get qualified. I will have to give up my Van Wilder crown!
JH: It is easy for me. I don’t follow rugby. I’m too involved as it is. I approach it like a job and do what I have to do, so when I come home I have other things to keep me busy. I have a restaurant in Dublin, I do an internship in the creative industry. They keep my mind ticking over so I’m mentally fresh.
There must be other distractions in camp as well. What is the rooming situation like?
JR: It’s mix and match. Wales tend to share it around. You always pray you do not get a front rower because they tend to snore. I’m not naming names.
KB: Scotland are the same, they tend to swap it round. I will say that the worst is the now retired, Chunk (Allan Jacobsen). He snored like a bugger. I must say Chunk is a brilliant roommate when he’s awake.
CR: Normally I room share with Dan Cole. He’s pretty sharp. He likes to keep me informed with a lots of the random knowledge he has in his head.
JH: I always room with Cian Healy. When you’re captain, you’re allowed your own room but I didn’t take it. I’m always with Church, be it Leinster or Ireland. Ha, ha, we know what to expect from each other. There are ‘tea bombs’ around 10pm, I make them and he enjoys them!
The players were at the launch of Guinness Class at Twickenham stadium. For more information on how you can win a luxury private jet to an RBS 6 Nations game for you and your mates visit facebook.com/GuinnessGB