June International Tours

Williams is key to Wales success



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Wales’ all-time leading try-scorer Shane Williams said he was flattered by comparisons with Springbok flyer Bryan Habana, the leading try-scorer at last year’s Rugby World Cup (RWC) in France.

The Welsh try-machine, who has 56 Test caps and a record-breaking 41 tries, made the acknowledgement when he addressed the media, shortly after his arrival in Cape Town on Friday.

“I’m really flattered to be compared with Habana,” said Williams, who was named the Six Nations’ player of the tournament after Wales were crowned 2008 champions.

“I have a lot of respect for Bryan. He is great, if not the best.”

Williams could have posed a serious threat to Habana’s leading 2007 RWC try-scoring title but Wales bombed out after the first round, while the Boks played three more matches en route to winning the championship.

Habana finished on top with eight tries while Williams came in joint-third position with six. However, with two Tests coming up, the two wings could, once again, display their try-scoring talents in Bloemfontein and Pretoria.

Williams spoke highly of Warren Gatland, who took over the reins of the ‘Dragons’ from Gareth Jenkins who was sacked after Wales’ 2007 RWC disaster.

“Since Warren took over, there has been a greater emphasis on hard work at training,” said Williams.

“There has been an increase in the intensity at practices.

“There is purpose and we train hard. We’ve started to enjoy working for each other and it’s something that we take through to the matches.

“There is now far greater self-belief in the team and you would have seen that ever since that second-half rally against England when we fought back to win.”

James Hook, the Welsh flyhalf, said before the team’s departure for Cape Town that Williams was going to be a key player on the SA tour, even if the Boks were well prepared to thwart his excellent finishing.

“We need him to carry on playing the way he has been to give us a great chance of beating the Springboks,” Hook said.

“Shane was a central figure in our Grand Slam win this year. They will have done their homework on all of us, including Shane.

“They (the Boks) go in for a lot of video work in their preparations, but no amount of watching videos can stop Shane side-stepping you or going around you,” added Hook.

The tourists’ skipper Ryan Jones said he had not given thought to becoming the first Welsh skipper to triumph on South African soil. In previous meetings between the two countries, the Boks have never lost a home Test.

“South Africa is one of the most difficult places to tour in the world,” said Jones.

“That’s even more so especially with the Springboks being the world champions. “Just in terms of competing, we would have to be at our best and just execute the basics well.

“This tour experience is going to be invaluable because we will be looking to see how much we’ve improved over the last six months. This tour will also tell us where we need to be in the future.”

The tourists will prepare in Cape Town for the first Test and are scheduled to arrive in Bloemfontein at midday next Friday.

Sapa – Rugbyweek.com

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