Tiny Shane’s gi­ant mark Fi­nal hur­rah against Aus­tralia

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

CARDIFF: When Shane Wil­liams plays his fi­nal match for Wales to­day, Test rugby will say good­bye to one man who has proved, in an era lit­tered with bulky backs, that rugby is still a game for all sizes .

The Ospreys flyer, for whom the phrase “diminu­tive wing” might have been coined, takes his leave of the in­ter­na­tional stage in Wales’ clash against Aus­tralia at the Mil­len­nium Sta­dium.

Although he will con­tinue at club level, the 34- year- old Wil­liams, who has scored a Welsh record 57 tries in 86 Tests, played in three World Cups and toured twice with the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions, be­lieves now is the right time to call time on his Test ca­reer.

And he is look­ing for­ward to fin­ish­ing against Aus­tralia, who held on to beat Wales 21-18 in their World Cup third place play­off in Auck­land in Oc­to­ber de­spite a Wil­liams try.

How­ever, Wil­liams said: “It is not Shane Wil­liams ver­sus Aus­tralia, it’s Wales ver­sus Aus­tralia, and I don’t want the fact it is my fi­nal game to cloud that.

“We want to show we have moved on from the World Cup, and beat­ing Aus­tralia would be nice.”

It is more than 11 years since Wil­liams made his Test de­but and Wales coach War­ren Gat­land said: “He will leave a huge hole, he is our record try-scorer.

“It gives us a chance to give him a send-off as a team and for the Welsh pub­lic to see him play at the Mil­len­nium Sta­dium for the last time.

To­day’s Mil­len­nium Sta­dium line-ups

Wales: Leigh Half­penny; Ge­orge North, Scott Wil­liams, Jamie Roberts, Shane Wil­liams, Rhys Pri­est­land, Lloyd Wil­liams; Toby Fale­tua, Sam War­bur­ton (capt), Dan Ly­di­ate; Ian Evans, Bradley Davies; Scott An­drews, Huw Ben­nett, Gethin Jenk­ins. Re­place­ments: Matthew Rees, Ryan Bev­ing­ton, Ryan Jones, Justin Tipuric, Tavis Knoyle, Dan Big­gar, Alex Cuth­bert Aus­tralia: Adam Ash­ley-cooper; Lachie Turner, Rob Horne, Ber­rick Barnes, Digby Ioane; James O'con­nor, Will Ge­nia; Ben Mc­cal­man, David Po­cock, Scott Hig­gin­botham; Rob Simmons, James Hor­will (capt); Salesi Ma'afu, Tatafu Polota Nau, James Slip­per. Re­place­ments: Stephen Moore, Ben Alexan­der, Nathan Sharpe, Radike Samo, Ben Lu­cas, Ben Tapuai, An­thony Fainga'a Ref­eree: Jonathan Ka­plan (SA) – Kick-off: 4.30pm – TV:

“It will be fan­tas­tic for him to lead the team out and get the stand­ing ova­tion he de­serves, and for the boys to do his last game for Wales jus­tice by play­ing well.”

Also hop­ing Wil­liams bows out in style is Gat­land’s fel­low New Zealan­der Gra­ham Henry, who as Wales coach gave the 1.7m fin­isher – renowned for both his blis­ter­ing pace and dev­as­tat­ing side­step – his Test de­but in 2000.

“He’s prob­a­bly been the num­ber one player in Wales for some time,” Henry, who in Oc­to­ber guided New Zealand to World Cup glory, told the BBC.

“There have been other guys knock­ing on the door but he has been con­sis­tently world­class. And they’ve looked at him to do some­thing spe­cial and of­ten he does that. He’s scored some out­stand­ing tries.”

Yet for all his suc­cess, it is some­times for­got­ten how Wil­liams’ Test ca­reer al­most came to an abrupt halt.

A run of 10 tries in his first 10 Tests marked a fairy­tale start to life in in­ter­na­tional rugby but a suc­ces­sion of ham­string in­juries in 2002 and

live on Su­per­sport1 2003 led Wil­liams, who some­times marked his scores with ex­trav­a­gant dives over the line, to con­sider quit­ting pro­fes­sional rugby.

And his Test prospects then faded as he fell out of favour with Henry’s Wales suc­ces­sor and fel­low Kiwi Steve Hansen.

How­ever, Hansen picked Wil­liams for a clash against New Zealand at the 2003 World Cup and although Wales lost, Wil­liams shone in de­feat as he did in the en­su­ing quar­ter-fi­nal loss to Eng­land.

But Wil­liams was to prove a hero in vic­tory, as well as de­feat, dur­ing Wales’ Six Na­tions Grand Slam in 2005, scor­ing a de­ci­sive try against Eng­land and a breath­tak­ing five-poin­ter against Italy.

Global recog­ni­tion came when he was named the In­ter­na­tional Rugby Board’s player of the year in 2008, hav­ing scored two stun­ning tries against the Spring­boks dur­ing a tour of South Africa where he was op­posed by a bril­liant wing in Bryan Ha­bana.

Henry, how­ever, said that year’s award should have gone to All Blacks cap­tain Richie Mc­caw. “That was a lit­tle bit hard to take but since the olden days, where I used to let every­thing af­fect me, it’s kind of water off a duck’s back these days and I’ve no qualms at all,” Wil­liams said.

It is of­ten said when a star player in any sport re­tires that “we will not see his like again”.

But with Wales fea­tur­ing teenage “gi­ant” Ge­orge North on their other wing and backs around the world get­ting big­ger and big­ger, in Wil­liams’s case it might just be true. – SAPA-AFP

SWAN SONG: Shane Wil­liams plays his fi­nal match for Wales to­day when they face Aus­tralia.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.