Shane Williams Q&A

Shane Williams acknowledges the Liberty Stadium crowd
Shane Williams acknowledges the Liberty Stadium crowd ahead of what could be his final appearance there for the Ospreys, against Newport Gwent Dragons

Wales v Barbarians

Venue:
Millennium Stadium
Date:
Saturday, 2 June
Kick-off:
14:00 BST
Coverage:
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.

Wales wing Shane Williams

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!

Watch Wales v Barbarians live on BBC Two Wales and the BBC Sport website - Saturday 2 June, kick-off 14:00 BST

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