Monday 20 November 2017

Shane Williams: Lions call up came out of the blue

Shane Williams will play for the Lions against the Brumbies
Shane Williams will play for the Lions against the Brumbies

Andrew Baldock

Shane Williams has revealed his sense of shock after being summoned from Japan to play for the British and Irish Lions.

The 36-year-old former Wales wing, who retired from Test rugby 18 months ago, will line up against the Brumbies in Canberra on Tuesday.

He is joined in the threequarter line by two England backs - wing Christian Wade and Brad Barritt - who have yet to arrive in Australia from Argentina and the United States respectively, while centre Billy Twelvetrees only touched down here two days ago.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland's team for the Brumbies clash features six players - Wade, Barritt, Twelvetrees, Williams, prop Ryan Grant and hooker Rory Best - who were not original selections among his 37-man tour squad.

Williams, a Lion in 2005 and 2009, is due to be a radio summariser for the three-Test series against Australia.

But he now finds himself pulling on the famous red shirt once again as the Lions grapple with injury concerns - notably Wales backs George North and Jamie Roberts - and giving players sufficient recovery time before next Saturday's series opener.

"I had a phone call to see whether I would be able to help them out because there are a couple of injuries in the squad," Williams told talkSPORT.

"There was no chance I was going to say no, to be honest with you.

"It was completely out of the blue. I never thought I would ever get this opportunity again, but if me contributing on Tuesday is going to help the Lions squad be successful in the three Tests then that is what I am here to do.

"I am here to provide any help they need to be successful in the Test series.

"Rob Howley (Lions assistant coach) phoned me. It is still sinking in. I am over the moon, and what I will do on the field is give my 100% effort and commitment and do whatever it takes to help the team out.

"I have been playing in Japan over the last 12 months. Fitness is not going to be an issue.

"If I had any doubt whatsoever that I wasn't capable or good enough then I would have said no, because there is no way I will let the Lions down."

Williams, who currently plays for Mitsubishi Dynaboars in Japan, will train with the Lions on Monday, play the following day and then leave the squad on Wednesday.

"It is the pinnacle of any player's career. I always wanted to play for Wales, and I didn't ever consider I would be good enough to play for the Lions," Williams added.

"You really don't think you will be among the legends like Willie John McBride, Gareth Edwards, Gerald Davies, all those legends. To be associated with the Lions is the greatest honour a rugby player could have."

Williams scored a record 58 tries in 87 Tests for Wales. His last Test match appearance was against Australia in December 2011, while he signed off from the Ospreys by helping them be crowned 2012 RaboDirect PRO12 champions.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland, who coached Williams with Wales between 2008 and 2011, said: "We just said we needed Shane for one game.

"We spoke to Shane and said the proviso is he comes in Monday, trains, plays on Tuesday and he leaves the squad on Wednesday. He was perfectly happy with that.

"The accolades have been given to Shane. He played in the last Lions Test match against South Africa, when they won. He's in pretty good nick.

"We know that he is fit and training, and I am sure he will come and do the jersey proud and do himself proud."

The Lions are unbeaten five games into their 10-match tour, and Gatland is upbeat about his team's prospects against a Brumbies side viewed by many pundits as potential Lions tamers.

"There is no way we are going out on Tuesday sacrificing a game. The motivation is there," he added.

"I am sure those players who take the field on Tuesday will be incredibly motivated to want to continue this tour unbeaten, and there is still that opportunity for players on Tuesday to put their hand up and say they want to be part of that Test XV or Test 23.

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