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Sunday 20 April 2014

Shane Williams impressed by speed merchant Wade

Shane Williams has described England speedster Christian Wade as "my kind of guy" ahead of them forming an unlikely strike partnership for the British and Irish Lions tomorrow.

Only two days ago, Williams was in Japan playing for his club side Mitsubishi Dynaboars, while Wade had an England Test match on his mind against Argentina in Buenos Aires.

Today, though, they trained with the Lions at North Sydney Oval ahead of starting against the Brumbies, when they will be joined by fellow threequarters and new arrivals Brad Barritt and Billy Twelvetrees.

Former Wales star Williams, who is 14 years older than Wade, scored a Welsh record 58 tries in 87 Tests before bringing the curtain down on a spectacular international career 18 months ago.

Wade, similar in size to Williams and also with pace to burn, has played just once for England, but his 32 tries from only 50 Wasps appearances suggests he is destined for great things - possibly even a Lions Test place Down Under.

"I have paid close attention to Christian and I've spoken to Stephen Jones (former Wales and Wasps fly-half) about him," Williams said today.

"He is a very talented player, new on the scene, but already raising eyebrows.

"He is obviously a massive talent, and I enjoy the way he plays. He is a very aggressive runner, obviously very fast, and he enjoys taking defenders on.

"He is my kind of guy, and I am looking forward to playing with him. He is more than capable of showing what he has got tomorrow and being part of this Test series."

Wade, 22, revealed that Williams had always rated among his rugby heroes, adding: "It is a massive thrill to play with Shane.

"I have watched him from a distance and tried to learn from him, and to be able to play alongside him is beyond my dreams. I didn't get the chance to play against him, and to be able to play with him is taking it to the next level."

The Lions, especially given the new-look nature and limited preparation time together of their threequarter unit, have it all to do at Canberra Stadium as they seek a sixth successive tour victory.

When the teams last met 12 years ago, a late Austin Healey try and Matt Dawson conversion gave the Lions an unlikely 30-28 triumph after they trailed for most of an enthralling contest.

"We are professional rugby players," Williams said. "We've played alongside the majority of these players before.

"We have to do our homework tonight to make sure we are mentally prepared for this game. We want to give 100 per cent and we don't want to let ourselves down. We are fully prepared to give it our all and play the way we play."

Williams' last game was for the Dynaboars in Narita on Saturday, accompanied by a temperature of 35 degrees, after which he received a telephone call from Lions assistant coach Rob Howley sounding out his availability.

It is likely to be a one game only experience Down Under for Williams, a Lions tourist in 2005 and 2009, as injuries clear among the backs, but he is determined to give it everything.

"I have kept fit and I've worked just as hard in Japan as I have throughout my rugby career," he added.

"Hopefully, it is not going to be too much of a shock to the system. I have played enough professional games and international level games to know what to expect tomorrow.

"I appreciate the Lions have had a lot of injuries during this tough tour so far, and if me playing tomorrow helps the Lions to recover, and do whatever it is best to prepare for Saturday and win that game, then I am very proud to be a part of it.

"Four years ago in Johannesburg (the Lions beat third Test opponents South Africa) was a great day for me and the Lions.

"It was unfortunate we lost the series, but I came off that field immensely proud, thinking that was the last time I'd wear the Lions jersey - and I've thought that for the last four years."

The Brumbies, coached by former South Africa boss Jake White, are determined to succeed where their fellow Australian Super Rugby sides - Western Force, Queensland Reds and the Waratahs - have all failed on tour so far, and tame the Lions.

They are without a number of players due to injuries and Australia squad commitments, but White said: "I am comfortable it is a good side.

"Some of the most successful stories you read about are small, little towns having a crack and getting a result. You look at Welsh teams of old beating the All Blacks, and people still talk about that.

"The Springboks lost to Otago many years ago, and that's folklore in Dunedin. So it's not like I just only talk about the Lions and their traditions, I do mention that we are massive underdogs with a massive uphill battle, but that is what great sporting moments are made of."

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