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Roberts promises team will improve.

Byline: gareth griffiths

WALES centre Jamie Roberts believes the unconvincing tour opener victory against the Royal XV will prove to be an inspiring catalyst for the Lions.

The Lions limped to victory against the combined side with a poor display that was only salvaged by a late fightback of 24 points in the final 12 minutes.

"It was tough getting going but perhaps this was the kick up the backside we needed," said Roberts.

"As a side we have got a lot to work on.

"We got the tour off to a winning start but the feeling is frustration more than anything.

"There were too many knock-ons and we lost possession too many times.

"We had 14 turnovers in the first half and that statistic speaks for itself.

"We blew some chances and if we had taken those it might have been a different story." But Roberts praised the character of the side to come back and claim victory.

"We saved ourselves at the end with the replacements coming on," added the 22-year-old.

"There is a massive amount of relief to get the win.

"There was a time with 10 minutes to go that we were worried we would lose the game but we managed to scrape through.

"There was a lark of spark about us which we needed to find..

"That was provided by Lee Byrne's try which was a good individual effort and we grew from there." The Lions' lacklustre victory was in stark contrast with the sensational manner in which South African province the Bulls thrashed Kiwi outfit the Chiefs in the Super 14 final in Pretoria.

The Bulls are set to provide at least six of the Springbok starting lineup for the first Test in Durban on June 20 - an ominous prospect for the Lions.

But Roberts warned the South African public not to read too much into the differing displays.

"There is a lot more to come from this Lions side," said Roberts.

"I am sure South Africa will be worried about what they are going to see off us in the next two or three weeks.

"You won't be able to tell much from the first game.

"There were new combinations and nerves but there is always going to be.

"We are still gelling but there is no doubt we will get better.

"In the end we have to be pleased with the victory." Roberts was one of the few individuals to emerge with distinction as he put forward a compelling case for a starting Test midfield spot alongside Brian O'Driscoll.

The Blues centre has spoken about his desire to emulate the achievements of Scott Gibbs in 1997, when the former Welsh midfield man inspired the Lions to victory with his manof-the-series displays.

And Roberts began that journey from tourist to Test players in fine fashion on Saturday with a powerful ball-carrying performance.

"It is more about the team but I felt comfortable and things went well personally," he added.

"Twelve is a position where getting over the gain-line is huge.

I managed to do that in the first game and hopefully I can do that in the rest of the tour games to come." Roberts' Lions debut performance was in stark contrast to his centre partner Keith Earls, who suffered a nightmare on his bow. The young Irish centre picked up an injury in the first minute and dropped the ball four times before half-time before he was eventually replaced by Riki Flutey, with Roberts switching to outside-centre.

But Roberts had words of comfort for Earls and backed the 21-year-old Munster man to bounce back from his disappointment.

"It was both our first games for the Lions and it is a nervous time," added Roberts.

"He had a few early nerves but he is a class act and I am sure he will bounce back.

"And I know that he will do the Lions jersey justice in the future."


UNSTOPPABLE: British and Irish Lions' Jamie Roberts powers through the Royal XV defence
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 1, 2009
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