Shane Williams 'last of dying breed' says Barry John

Legendary former fly-half Barry John says retiring Wales wing Shane Williams is "the last of a dying breed".

The diminutive flyer - he stands 5ft 7in and weighs 12st 8lb - plays his last Test for Wales on Saturday.

John said "quick-start, instinctive and daring" players like Williams are disappearing as size takes over.

He also said Williams would have made the great Welsh teams of the 1970s. "He would have played in our side. He'd get in, no doubt," added John.

"Gerald [Davies] and he would have been a fantastic wing pairing. [Former Wales full-back] JPR [Williams] would be licking his lips at the thought of letting these guys go."

John and scrum-half Gareth Edwards formed one of the most revered half-back partnerships in the game's history and played alongside fellow stellar names such as JPR Williams, John Dawes, Gerald Davies, Mervyn Davies, John Taylor and Delme Thomas at the start of an era that spanned the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Williams, who will face Australia at the Millennium Stadium in his final international, is Wales' all-time leading try-scorer with 57 and was the 2008 International Rugby Board Player of the Year.

Earlier this week South Africa legend Bryan Habana said Williams was one of the best to have ever played the game and John is equally complimentary about the 34-year-old Osprey.

"Shane has been an outrageously outstanding person, a brilliant figurehead for youngsters," said John.

"He was his own man out there and you can't get any better than your peers and for everybody else to judge that you are the best player in the world [in 2008] - well, you can't get any better than that.

"He's definitely in my great Welsh team, no problem at all with that.

"He'll be a great loss and he'll have a fantastic reception when he takes the field [against the Wallabies] and it will be very emotional all round for him.

"But his contribution to Welsh rugby is right up there with anybody."

John - dubbed 'The King' for his exploits during the Lions' successful 1971 tour to New Zealand - believes it is sad that smaller players such as Williams are being lost to the game.

"I wonder sometimes whether we've got too many people on the field - 30 players and we can't make the fields bigger because the stands are in the way," continued John.

"But the world of the Geralds and the Shane Williamses, I think they're gone and it's sad - very, very sad because these guys brought something extra and special to the game.

"They brought a new dimension - elusive, jinking runs and what the French boys of old brought - they were brilliant, marvellous people to watch and exciting.

"But now is the modern game of jumbo-jet rugby, I suppose, and juggernauts, and I don't think it's that appealing.

"And it's not a case of appealing now, it's a needs-and-must situation and, if they've got them, you've got to get them - otherwise you don't compete."

Team details:

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues); George North (Scarlets), Scott Williams (Scarlets), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues), Shane Williams (Ospreys); Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), Lloyd Williams (Blues); Gethin Jenkins (Blues), Huw Bennett (Ospreys), Scott Andrews (Blues), Bradley Davies (Blues), Ian Evans (Ospreys), Dan Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), Sam Warburton (Blues, capt), Toby Faletau (Dragons).

Replacements: Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys), Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Alex Cuthbert (Blues).

Australia: Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs); Lachie Turner (NSW Waratahs), Anthony Fainga'a (Queensland Reds), Berrick Barnes (NSW Waratahs), Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds); James O'Connor (Melbourne Rebels), Will Genia (Queensland Reds); James Slipper (Queensland Reds), Tatafu Polota Nau (NSW Waratahs), Salesi Ma'afu (Western Force), James Horwill (Queensland Reds, capt), Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds), Scott Higginbotham (Queensland Reds), David Pocock (Western Force), Ben McCalman (Western Force).

Replacements: Stephen Moore (Brumbies), Ben Alexander (Brumbies), Nathan Sharpe (Western Force), Radike Samo (Queensland Reds), Ben Lucas (Queensland Reds), Ben Tapuai (Queensland Reds), Nick Phipps (Melbourne Rebels).

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa).

Assistant referees: Dave Pearson (England) and Jerome Garces (France).

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