Martyn Williams set for 100th cap
May 8, 2012
Martyn Williams will start on the bench against the Baa-Baas © Getty Images
Wales openside Martyn Williams will win his 100th cap against the Barbarians on June 2.
Caretaker boss Rob Howley has also revealed that skipper Sam Warburton will be fit to travel to Australia on their three-Test tour despite original concerns over his fitness. But it is Williams who will take the immediate headlines.
Wales will play the Barbarians without their first-choice Test XV as they will be heading to Australia at the end of May ahead of their Tour opener with the Wallabies on June 9 - just seven days after the clash with the Baa-Baas. With that in mind, Williams will play a role in the clash from the bench. But Howley is adamant that the veteran's inclusion is not based on sentiment following an internet campaign calling for Williams to hit his century of caps against the Baa-Baas.
"I have told Martyn he will be on the bench and he will come on to have an impact," Howley said. "The experience of starting an international is important and it is vital the young players who might have that chance against the Baa-baas go through that process.
"That will be great for their experience going forward. I spoke to Martyn about two or three weeks ago and I was pretty up front and honest with him. He accepted and he has been a great player and ambassador.
"Now he will join the likes of Stephen Jones and Gareth Thomas in winning 100 caps and I'm sure everyone in Welsh rugby is totally pleased for that achievement."
However, while Williams will get his 100th cap against the Baa-Baas, Warburton will be the starting openside for Wales on their tour of Australia. Despite not playing since the end of the Six Nations, he looks set to be thrown straight back in the mix come the summer.
"The decision has been made on Sam. His rehab has gone well and I have checked with the medical staff this morning and spoken to Sam himself," Howley said. "He is very comfortably with where he is and he has started conditioning work with Adam Beard already.
"It is so important for Sam to lead us because he has been so impressive as a captain over the last 12 months. It is great to see Sam smiling and looking forward to the Australia tour."
Warburton's inclusion will come as a huge boost to Howley, who will take on the role of caretaker coach for the tour following Warren Gatland's injury. For Howley, it offers him the chance to showcase his credentials and it is something he is relishing.
"In these unforeseen circumstances I'm delighted and proud to have been given the opportunity to be the interim head coach.," Howley said. "The fact that I feel both ready and able to take on the challenges ahead is testament to the integrated approach Warren Gatland has taken to building his international squad and coaching team over the last four years."
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