Williams set for emotional send-off
November 30, 2011
The Wales side pay tribute to Shane Williams © Getty Images
Wales winger Shane Williams will turn out for the national side for the last time on Saturday and admits he may struggle to contain his emotions in front of a packed Millennium Stadium.
Williams will winning his 87th and final cap of a Test career that has seen him score a Wales record 57 tries against Australia on Saturday. And while the 34-year-old wing is content with his decision to call it a day, he is braced for an emotional send-off.
Williams has already received an inkling of what awaits him after Wales coach Warren Gatland and his players designated Tuesday 'Shane Williams day' at their training base. It meant, among other things, Williams reading out the team to his colleagues for Saturday's clash at Gatland's invitation, seeing posters of himself displayed all over the team room and enjoying the company of his family and friends, who were invited for lunch with the squad.
Gatland even arrived for his media conference wearing a Shane Williams face mask, and then confirmed the Ospreys try machine would lead Wales out of the tunnel against Australia. "I am not someone who likes to cry in front of millions of people, I will be honest with you, but you could very well see it on Saturday," Williams said. "I am not going to act all macho and say that I never cry. I don't know what is going to happen.
"Hopefully, I can enjoy the day, and if I do shed a tear then people can forgive me. It (Wales career) has been emotional from start to finish, so I imagine the last game will be overwhelming in the end, really. I turned up today and they had converted the team room. There were photographs everywhere. I went to the toilet, and there were even pictures of me above the urinal!
"It has been a little bit embarrassing, but it's all good fun. Getting welcomed into training in the morning by Warren Gatland dressed as me, wearing a face mask of me, is quite overwhelming. There were posters and banners in the team room - there was even a video montage going on in the background.
"Warren asked me if I minded announcing the team to the players. I pretended I had actually picked the side, and it seemed to go down pretty well. I will certainly miss all the mickey-taking and the camaraderie of all the boys. I've had great fun. I knew this week was coming, and I can't wait for Saturday. I am going to have a great day and make sure I go out with a bang and win with Wales.
"At the back of my mind, I know this is it, so there will be a bit of sadness on Saturday evening or Sunday, but I want to completely enjoy the day."
Williams revealed earlier this year that he was planning to quit the Test arena post-2011 World Cup, and the scheduling of Australia's Millennium Stadium visit means he has a home game in which to make his exit.
"I am more excited than upset that it is going to be my last game for Wales," he added. "You always question whether it is the right thing, but I genuinely do believe it is the right time for me to do this. There are no hidden agendas.
"It will be nice to go out at the top, rather than continue playing for the sake of playing, try to beat records, gain more caps - and not play very well. I would be gutted with that. There is the try record (David Campese's world Test record of 64), and the fact I could have gone on and hopefully got to 100 caps, but I would be devastated if I tried doing that, didn't play particularly well and spent two years trying to score one try."
Williams believes he was at the peak of his powers in 2008, a year when Wales won the Six Nations title and Grand Slam, he starred against the Springboks in South Africa and was then named International Rugby Board player of the year. He readily accepts, though, that his Wales career was not always plain sailing.
"I've had my doubters, be it coaches or people in the press," he said. "For a time in 2002 I wasn't good enough to play international rugby.
"Back in 2002, a lot was mentioned about my size, strength and ability, and I took it to heart, almost overnight. I tried to put weight on and become a more physical player, and it backfired. It resulted in me getting injured quite often, and when I did play I felt I was just too heavy and cumbersome. I lost form and I didn't get selected for Wales.
"I think the 2007-08 season was the most positive one for me. Even though it wasn't a successful World Cup for Wales, I felt I was playing my best rugby. I felt sharp, and probably the most positive part of my career was the 2008 Six Nations Grand Slam."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"If England flounder in the next World Cup the knives will be out - six-year contract or not." Tom Hamilton on the new contract for the England coaches
The All Blacks face their toughest task of the Rugby Championship at Ellis Park this weekend, writes Craig Dowd
With the deadline for World Cup ticket applications now over, Tom May outlines his hopes, gripes and wishes for next year's global gathering
Floundering Leicester, exquisite Exeter and two old England players tearing up trees - it's the Monday Maul