Gatland: Shane Williams will deliver
Tom Hamilton in Sydney
June 16, 2013
Shane Williams bids farewell to the Welsh crowd in his final match at the Millennium Stadium back in 2012 © Getty Images
Williams called time on his Wales career in December 2011 and left the Ospreys at the end of the 2011-12 season. He said at the time he was retiring from rugby but an approach from the Mitsubishi Dynaboars in Japan triggered the winger to change his mind.
He has been running out in the Far East over the past season and was due to arrive in Australia for media duties. But with the Lions counting the cost of a bruising few games, Williams has been drafted into their starting XV for the match against the Brumbies on Tuesday.
He will link up with Christian Wade and Brad Barritt in the backs with the England duo yet to arrive in Australia following their call-up in the early hours of Sunday morning. Gatland is adamant Williams will stay with the squad for just a couple of days and he is optimistic the 36-year-old will deliver against the Brumbies.
"We spoke to Shane and just said that he comes in Monday and plays Tuesday and leaves Wednesday," Gatland said. "He was perfectly happy with that. Having worked with him for a long time, he will fit in well to our game plan and understand what we are trying to do.
"He's already halfway here. Part of the reasoning behind it is that he's still playing, he's in Japan at the time and we were thinking about the travel and getting the players here. Christian Wade was in Argentina, Brad was in the States and Shane was in Japan."
Warren Gatland counts the cost of the British & Irish Lions' injury toll
And despite having last played a Test match in 2011, Gatland is confident Williams' fitness is good enough for the intensity of Tuesday's game. Gatland added: "He has over 100 caps for Wales and is in pretty good nick. He's been boxing, hopefully that's not needed on Tuesday. But we know he's fit and training and I'm sure he will come in and do the jersey proud and do the team proud."
But while Gatland has named Billy Twelvetrees in the centres for Tuesday's game, the Lions are monitoring another inside centre's fitness with Jamie Roberts a doubt for the first Test after he limped off during the second-half of their win over the Waratahs.
"Fingers crossed for Jamie, he's never pulled a hamstring before so we're not sure of the injury," Gatland said. "We're just trying to be proactive looking after the players, Sean Maitland is a bit sore after last night; he's played three games in a row. We're just trying to give the test side the best chance of being fit and ready for Saturday."
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Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.