Jamie Roberts is relishing the chance to be back involved with Wales
Jamie Roberts returns to the Wales side this weekend and admits watching the autumn internationals from the sidelines was a bitter pill to swallow.
When I first found out I was injured and I was missing the autumn, the Six Nations was the next big target for me
The giant centre has struggled with knee and ankle problems since joining French club Racing Metro from Cardiff Blues last summer but is now fit to start for Warren Gatland's men in the RBS 6 Nations opener with Italy.
Saturday's clash with the Azzurri is the first step for Wales as they look to secure what would be a historic treble of Championship titles. Gatland may be without the experienced Ryan Jones and Ian Evans in the pack but the availability of Roberts is a huge boost to the defending champions. He partners the inform Scott Williams in midfield against Jacques Brunel's side and failed to hide his delight at the prospect of running back out at the Millennium Stadium.
"Having missed the autumn, I found it very hard watching - I can assure you of that," said the 27-year-old.
"It's nice to have the chance to play again. When I first found out I was injured and I was missing the autumn, the Six Nations was the next big target. I've always kept that in the back of my mind as I've been doing my rehab. I had a bit of a hiccup with my knee injury but I'm thrilled to be back in this Welsh team.
"I've played alongside these boys for the last three, four or five years. We're a well-oiled machine and I think that's a good way of putting it, especially after the last two campaigns. We know if we get our big players fit and firing then we're a dangerous outfit."
After Italy got the better of both France and Ireland in last year's campaign, a win over the men in blue is no longer a foregone conclusion. Having said that, Roberts reckons Wales must embrace the tag of favourites for this year's title.
"This first game up is a huge test. Italy as we say every year are a vastly improving team and looking back two years ago, it took us a good 60 or 70 minutes to crack them," he said.
"There is no doubt it will be the same this weekend, they're a tough outfit with some very serious players.
"But there is a lot of experience in the squad and after the last two Six Nations campaigns, we go into this one full of confidence. We're favourites, rightly so, and we have to train and prepare that way. Warren has spoken about having a strut and being confident as well as humble but we have to go out and express ourselves and not go into our shells on the pitch."
Roberts warmed up for this Saturday's Six Nations opener by helping his club side to a morale-boosting 25-5 win over Toulouse at the Stade de France. Domestic teammates Mike Phillips and Dan Lydiate were also to the fore in that victory, a game which gave Roberts a timely boost going into the next few weeks.
He added: "It was a new thing for me going back to play at the weekend but the timing was good, especially after my knee injury. It was nice to be able to play in a big game leading into the Six Nations.
"To play at the Stade de France and beat Toulouse quite comfortably was nice and it was a big confidence booster for me, Mike and Dan. I've suffered a bit of bad luck with injuries but you just have to chuck yourself back in and I was delighted to come back unscathed."
With back-to-back clashes with Italy and Ireland on the horizon, Roberts is now firmly focused on international duty. It all starts with the Italians with lock Alun Wyn Jones leading Wales out on Saturday. Roberts joined Jones on the successful British & Irish Lions tour last summer, with the Wales lock skippering the Lions to the third Test win over Australia.
"I've played with Alun for a long time now and he plays with his heart on his sleeve," said Roberts.
"He is 110 per cent in everything he does, whether that's training or playing. One of the best ways to lead is to lead by example and I remember his speech before the third Test with the Lions and it sent the hairs on the back of your neck standing up.
"To see a bloke who is literally in tears giving a speech, I remember that very, very vividly. He's a very passionate Welshman and deserves to have the captaincy."
On the prospect of forming a new centre partnership with Williams, the Racing Metro man added: "Scott is one of the most improved players in Welsh rugby and he's taken another step forward this year. His performances for his region have been up there with some of the best in Europe this year.
"He shone during the autumn and is a good distributor, a good rugby player and hopefully we can put him into some space. If you give him a sniff, he's a dangerous finisher so I'm looking forward to playing alongside him as part of a strong and experienced back line."
Team coach Brett Davey is aiming to keep his unbeaten run in cup finals at Principality Stadium intact when his side take on Amman United in the WRU Bowl final, after he guided Caerphilly to a 20-14 win against Cilfynydd in the semi-finals.
Penallta are hoping to go one step further than last season when falling to Bedlinog in the WRU Plate Final. After a titanic struggle against Nant Conwy, they have given themselves a great chance, after a hard fought 18-13 semi-final victory.
The unique jeopardy of Judgement Day V has been described by stars from Cardiff Blues, Ospreys, Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons who will face each other in the annual double-header at Principality Stadium on 15th April.
School club hub officers in schools throughout Wales are enriching lives by helping pupils to engage more with their education, their community and improve their own outlook on life and future prospects by improving confidence and developing skills such as leadership.
WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips, WRU chairman Gareth Davies and Dragons chief executive Stuart Davies discuss the historic intentions of the governing body to assume operational control of the Newport Gwent Dragons, with a targeted completion date of 1st July.
Equal access to facilities and resources at St Helen's has seen Swansea Women flourish since being welcomed with open arms last July. Swansea RFC chairman Stephen Hughes and women's captain Siwan Lillicrap are delighted to see rapid progress being made on and off the pitch.
Young referee Ben Breakspear is making rapid strides as a referee. In just over a year he has gone from officiating a college game to being a touchline official during last weekend's RBS 6 Nations clash between Wales and Ireland at Principality Stadium.
Grand Slams, Triple Crowns and British and Irish Lions tours - Sir Gareth Edwards did it all. But what are his favourite moments in what was an amazing career? WRU TV finds out - along with his favourite players of today in the third and final instalment of our series with the greatest rugby player ever.
JPR Williams, Gerald Davies and Mervyn Davies were among those in the Welsh ranks when Sir Gareth Edwards began his international career against France nearly 50 years ago, but who was the player who took the young scrum half under their wing?
Wales head coach Rob Howley and captain Alun Wyn Jones are expecting a physical battle against France on Saturday but both are hoping for another impact from the bench as the men in red chase a top-four world ranking.
It's nearly 50 years since the great Sir Gareth Edwards made his debut as a youngster for Wales against France in Stade Colombes. In the first of a series, WRU TV discovers he pocketed a 'special momento' from the game - something he still has today.