Williams facing fitness battle
February 9, 2009
Williams feeds his backline during Sunday's clash with Scotland at Murrayfield © Getty Images
Wales wing Shane Williams faces a fight to be fit for the mouth-watering Six Nations showdown against England next Saturday.
The Ospreys speedster suffered an ankle injury during Wales' tournament-opening 26-13 victory over Scotland at Murrayfield. And it is the latest fitness concern for boss Warren Gatland, who saw Williams' fellow Lions Gavin Henson and Ryan Jones miss the Edinburgh game due to calf muscle strains.
Williams scored his 45th Test try against a listless Scottish side as Wales launched their title defence with only a third Murrayfield win since 1985. But England could now be spared the prospect of facing Williams in a game they will start as considerable underdogs.
"I went over on my ankle tackling Jason White," he said. "I've iced it up and compressed it up, and I hope I can come back and be available for selection.
"Hopefully, it is not as bad as I first thought. I am more determined than ever to play on the weekend. I would be really gutted if I miss the game, and I will be working as hard as I possibly can to be fit. At home against England, there is no bigger game, really. We will have to wait and see. I won't be playing unless I am 100% fit.
"I will do whatever it takes to get back on the field."
Mark Jones, on the verge of full fitness following recent appendix surgery, can expect a recall if Williams is ruled out. Gatland is set to delay his team announcement by 24 hours until Thursday, giving Williams, Henson and Jones maximum recovery time.
Williams was hurt during the closing stages of a game Wales led 26-6 with 20 minutes left after his try followed earlier scores by centre Tom Shanklin, lock Alun-Wyn Jones and wing Leigh Halfpenny on his Six Nations debut.
Scotland belatedly rallied through a score from impressive substitute Max Evans, yet the absence of injured forwards Euan Murray and Nathan Hines took an inevitable toll as Wales dominated up-front.
"I know with Hines and Murray out, they were huge losses to the Scottish tight five, but it was one aspect of our game that was very, very pleasing," said Gatland. "We're pretty happy with a lot of things in attack, although there a few things to work on in defence. But for us to start the campaign off like that and get a win away from home, we're very, very pleased."
Gatland was delighted with the way his side coped after losing Henson on Friday and Jones on Saturday, absences that could have rocked Wales to the core.
He added "I think it's the maturity that is developing in the side. We get a couple of setbacks or disappointments and you just handle it. That's what good sides do.
"There is a long way to go in this tournament, and what we had to remind ourselves of during the week was that all teams started on zero points before Saturday. If we do play to our potential, we've got a good chance of retaining this title."
As Ray McLoughlin prepares to celebrate his 75th birthday, Huw Richards pays tribute to the man and the selectors who had the wisdom to bring him into the Ireland fold
John Taylor argues the world's best XVs players must be given a chance to play in the Olympics to increase the appeal of the game
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament