Williams backs Wales for series triumph
June 4, 2012
Wales' Martyn Williams enters the fray against the Barbarians to win his 100th Test cap © Getty Images
Martyn Williams sees no reason why Wales cannot return from Australia with a Test-series win under their belts.
The legendary flanker, who helped Wales to a 30-21 victory over the Barbarians on Saturday in his 100th and final Test appearance, insists confidence is high within the camp and not only do they have their eyes set on a first win in Australia since 1969 - but also an historic series triumph.
Wales have not beaten Australia since a 2008 win in Cardiff in 2008 and they have to go back even further for the last time they beat the Wallabies away from home - 22-21 in Rotorua in the 1987 Rugby World Cup bronze medal match. Australia have also won their two most recent clashes - a 21-18 win in last year's bronze medal match in Auckland and a 24-18 victory in Cardiff in December.
"Having been with Wales for the last few weeks I know they're thinking about a series win," Williams said. "I think they're more than capable of improving on the grand slam and World Cup and I think they're more than capable of getting a Test series win. The first Test will be key. If they can pinch one there that will set them up nicely. Everyone is fit, Australia have a few players out and it is unbelievable that the only we've lost is Jamie Roberts."
Williams rates the tour experience to Australia very highly. He was part of the 2001 British & Lions squad and was part of the Wales side at the 2003 World Cup. The pressure to perform may not be as intense as when touring South Africa and New Zealand, but Williams insists it is an equally difficult place to go and win.
"Off the field of play Australia is probably the best place to tour because it is such a fantastic country," he said. "Rugby-wise it is not as intense as South Africa or New Zealand where rugby is their national sport, whereas union in Australia is down the pecking order a little bit. But like with any sport, trying to beat Australia in their own back yard is a big, big ask, but it will be a good experience for all the boys who go down there."
Australia are already without their skipper James Horwill and utility back James O'Connor for the series, while fly-half Quade Copper and fullback Kurtley Beale will both be nursing injuries. Wales by contrast will only be without centre Jamie Roberts, who is being forced to miss the series with a knee injury.
Nonetheless the Wallabies showed in the World Cup that they are a developing team and Williams was quick to identify stand-in captain David Pocock and scrum-half Will Genia as the main dangermen.
"Pocock is up there with McCaw. They are the two best opensides in the world," he said. "We saw him in the World Cup against South Africa and he more or less won that match single-handedly. He, along with Genia, have caused us a lot of problems over the last few years whenever we've played them. If they are fit and play the three Test matches they will make life very, very difficult because they are two of the best players in their positions in the world."
The tour will be unique for Wales as they travel without their head coach Warren Gatland, who is back home in New Zealand recuperating from surgery on two broken ankles. It means that Rob Howley is set to lead the tour party as caretaker coach, assisted by Robin McBryde, Neil Jenkins and Shaun Edwards.
They are a group of coaches that Williams knows well and who have shown their quality by guiding Wales to two Six Nations grand slams and the semi-finals of last year's World Cup. "We'll miss him, but we've still got Rob, Jenks, Robin and Shaun Edwards and they are four outstanding coaches," Williams said. "Hopefully he'll make it over for the second test. You will always miss someone like Warren, but the other boys have all been together for the last four years and do most of the hands-on coaching and hopefully it won't affect the boys too greatly."
Martyn Williams lends at hand at Crymych RFC as part of the NatWest RugbyForce Weekend © Synergy Sponsorship
Williams himself is set for a summer of rest and recuperation following his final hurrah that saw 60,000 fans at the Millennium Stadium pay a fitting tribute. He came on early in the second half to bring the 60,000 crowd to its feet and the curtain down on an illustrious career with Wales, the Lions, Cardiff Blues and Pontypridd. It was also the final appearance for another Welsh legend - Shane Williams - who lined up for the Barbarians.
It was an impressive performance from a team featuring four debutants and that was missing the 16 players who had already travelled to Australia for the Test series. With 15 minutes remaining they were trailing 21-16, but led by James Hook they rallied to come back and win.
"I only came on in the second half, so the body is ok, but it was quite an emotional day really," he said. "It was a strange feeling to wake up and think that it is all done and dusted and I won't be playing again. I loved every minute and it was a good couple of weeks. I was just happy to get over the century mark.
"To have Shane (Williams), who is someone I've played with so many times and the best player we've ever had since Gareth Edwards, it was a great way to finish off and nice to squeeze a win out at the end. When you consider that the first XV are out in Australia already and that the Ospreys boys had to back up from last Sunday we only started training on Tuesday. We had a few sessions together and it was good to get a win. Good for the boys who are flying out today ahead of the Australia series."
Martyn Williams was helping out with Crymych RFC's renovation work during NatWest RugbyForce Weekend. For more information on the programme visit natwest.com/rugbyforce.
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