Shane Williams Q&A
Wales v Barbarians
- Millennium Stadium
- Saturday, 2 June
- 14:00 BST
- Live on BBC Two Wales, BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru and online
After 165 tries in a 14-year career - including a record 58 in 87 Tests for Wales - Shane Williams is poised to bring the curtain down on a glittering career.
Sunday's Pro 12 final against Leinster in Dublin was his last outing with the Ospreys.
The wing wizard's final game will be an emotionally-charged affair for the Barbarians against his old Wales team-mates at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, 2 June.
Williams, 35, spoke to Matt Dawson on his BBC 5 live Rugby programme about the highlights of his career and impending retirement.
Q: How will it feel to play AGAINST Wales in Cardiff?
SW: It is strange but it is a fantastic way to finish. I couldn't have picked it any better - playing against my mates at the Millennium Stadium, when I thought I had played my last game there back in December [Williams scored a try in the last move of the match as Wales lost to Australia]. I will have all my friends and family there and it will be fantastic - I can't wait for the game now. Regardless of who is playing for Wales, I will be giving it all I've got.
Q: How did you manage to thrive given your size in a world of rugby giants?
SW: I had to develop my game. I knew from the start I was always going to be smaller than others, so I just changed my game slightly. I went out almost not to get tackled if I could. Physically I am not as strong as the Lote Tuqiris or Tuilagis, so I changed the way I was tackling them too. There was no point in trying to take them above hip height, I just had to go low against those guys.
Q: How did coaches try to harness your distinctive approach to the game?
SW: My first coach was Lyn Jones [with Neath, then Ospreys]. He basically said 'I can't tell you how to play'. People like [former Wales coach] Mike Ruddock used to tell players like Tom Shanklin: 'Right, I want you to do this, this and this' but when it came to me, he said 'Shane, you just do what you do, you crack on'. I would like to think I have a structure to my game, but I don't even know what I am going to do next sometimes.
I am not a winger who likes to stay on his wing. Having played scrum-half at school, I like to get involved as much as possible, close to the rucks. I always tried to find mis-matches. I much prefer running at the 'fatties' - the props - because they tend to be a bit more sluggish, and you can use your feet against then. A sign of a good winger these days is one who comes off his wing and looks for those mis-matches. They are few and far between but they are there, and you have to have a crack at it.
Q: Who was your toughest opponent?
SW: I think the toughest game I have had against any player was All Blacks wing Rico Gear at the Millennium Stadium one year [2005, when Gear scored a hat-trick in a 41-3 New Zealand victory].
He just absolutely annihilated me. We had lost the game convincingly anyway, but I remember walking off thinking 'that guy was so much better than me today'. It was a horrible feeling at the time but I think it helped me as a player.
Q: What was the best match you played in?
SW: It sounds almost selfish, but it was probably the game against New Zealand at the 2003 World Cup [NZ eventually won 53-37, after Wales led 37-33, Williams scoring one of their four tries].
It was my make-or-break game. I hadn't been involved in the squad for a long time, and it was almost lambs to the slaughter - a lot of us had been thrown in for the final pool game, with no-one expecting us to do anything. There were 90 points in that game and although we did lose, it was the most open game I have been involved with in a Welsh jersey. I thoroughly enjoyed it and from that point on, I was looked on as a first choice again. So it was a massive game for me where Wales is concerned.
Q: Who was the best player you played with?
SW: Probably Martyn Williams for what he has achieved and his consistency over the years. He wasn't a flash player but he used to do all the hard work and always put his body on the line. I always respected him for that.
Q: Do you think you're still good enough to play for Wales?
SW: I don't believe physically I am any worse off than two years ago. I am still pretty sharp, training is going well and I do believe I could compete at international level.
Hopefully I can do that against the Welsh boys at the Millennium Stadium. The reason for retiring was partly personal, so I could spend more time with my family, and also because I wanted to do other things apart from just playing rugby.
Q: How will you cope with retirement? What will you miss most?
SW: It is going to be strange. I witnessed a Grand Slam from the sidelines this year and, even though I would have loved to be out there winning it again, I enjoyed it so much being on the other side, just being one of those 'mad Taffs' as we call them, supporting the guys, enjoying the rugby. I had a great time working with the BBC and S4C, being able to give my opinion on it.
The thing I am going to miss are the guys themselves. Some of them have been my best friends since I started in 1998. That team spirit, the training, taking the mick out of each other. We will have to wait and see; maybe it will be a different story in a couple of months when I have hung up my boots and the season is starting again. But at the moment I am quite excited about leaving it all behind and taking the next step... and maybe watching Wales with one of those massive daffodils on my head!