Graham Henry hails Shane Williams as Wales' best in a generation

Shane Williams scores a try against Australia at the 2011 World Cup
Shane Williams scored his 57th try for Wales in his last match against Australia

World Cup-winning coach Graham Henry has described Shane Williams as Wales' finest player of a generation.

Having scored a Wales record 57 tries in 86 appearances, Williams ends his international career after facing Australia in Cardiff on Saturday.

And Henry, who gave Williams his Test debut in 2000, says the 34-year-old wing fully deserves a farewell tribute.

"He's probably been the number one player in Wales for some time," said ex-New Zealand and Wales coach Henry.

"There have been other guys knocking on the door but he has been consistently world class.

"And they've looked at him to do something special and often he does that. He's scored some outstanding tries."

Those tries have earned Williams a reputation as one of rugby's most instinctive finishers - his ability to side-step and squeeze in acrobatically at the corner setting him apart from his bulkier contemporaries.

He introduced himself to the international stage by scoring 10 tries in his first 10 games under Henry, but a string of injuries in 2002 led him to consider quitting the game altogether.

His career prospects looked slim under Henry's successor, Steve Hansen, who took Williams to the 2003 World Cup as a third-choice scrum-half.

But his career flourished from there, playing in a further two World Cup campaigns, winning the Grand Slam twice and touring twice with the British and Irish Lions.

A place among rugby's hall of fame was secured in 2008 when he was named the International Rugby Board Player of the Year, although Henry famously declared Williams was not his particular choice.

"I met him at the IRB dinner when I was announced World Player of the Year, which was quite ironic really," recalls Williams.

"I did enjoy that. Even then he came out and said that Ritchie McCaw should have won it.

"That was a little bit hard to take but since the olden days, where I used to let everything affect me, it's kind of water off a ducks back these days and I've no qualms at all."

Saturday's match with Australia will be a repeat of the thrilling bronze medal match at the World Cup, where Williams scored a typically improvised try that gave Wales a 8-7 lead.

But the Aussies went on to win, despite a late Wales rally, and "revenge" has been the dominant word uttered by Warren Gatland's squad in the lead up to this latest encounter.

Williams has stressed that victory rather than a starring appearance from him is the objective, and Henry had a simple message for Wales' record try-scorer as he contemplated his final international appearance.

"Go out there and express yourself again," said Henry, who guided New Zealand to World Cup triumph in October.

"Enjoy the occasion and score a couple of tries hopefully. And beat Australia."

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).

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