Wales say farewell to Williams – last of a dying breed

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Australia face a tide of emotion today, and a 5ft 7in twinkle-toed wing who is still capable of waltzing through a land of giants

For a player who has forged his legend through spectacular finishing, the script is all written for this afternoon's international farewell.

This particular Shane will not ride off into the sunset; he will jink, hop and sidestep with Wallabies fumbling in his wake and Wales toasting the perfect send-off.

That's the romantic view anyway. Of course, the reality maybe somewhat different, especially when one considers Wales have only won once against Tri-Nations opposition in their last 14 attempts. They will require Williams to be at his twinkle-toed best to prevail. Yet, more than that, they will need to show the same collective creativity and physicality which carried them so far in the Rugby World Cup.

However, to regard Williams as merely one in 15 today (or in modern parlance, one in 22) is to rival a Dalek for sentiment. More than 60,000 tickets had been sold by yesterday lunchtime for this transparent money-earner and it is undeniable that the chance to say goodbye has swollen the audience. If you don't like a little wizardy with your grunt and biff then Cardiff is no place for you today.

Rob Howley, the Welsh skills coach, is not prone to the grand statement, but after their run-out at the Millennium Stadium yesterday he was prepared to anoint the 34-year-old with something resembling Godly status. "Those of us who have played with Shane over the last 11 years are fortunate to have played with one of the greatest ever," said the former scrum-half, who went on to label him "a priceless asset".

Howley was there at the beginning, for the sound of pitter-patter feet, if you like. "I remember when he came on against France for his debut – his jersey looked heavier than him," he said. "He isn't 6ft 4in and 17 stone; when he started he was 11 stone. To survive the way he has is incredible. He has scored tries you wouldn't think any player had the right to score and caused havoc in opposing defences for a decade or more. No matter what or who was up against him, Shane always found a way and hopefully he'll find a way again on Saturday afternoon."

Robbie Deans, the Australia coach, admitted he is "concerned" by the Williams effect. Nine years older than the next youngest in the backline, Jamie Roberts, Williams plainly inspires the youngsters. "His ability and professionalism has rubbed off on them and if you want to see Shane's legacy it's right there – in George North and Leigh Halfpenny," said Howley. "He has taken 'back-three' training sessions with them. He understands angles, line-speeds, how defences operate. But he leaves a legacy off the field as well. He's very disciplined."

What's required today will be rather more than their performance in the third-fourth play-off in the World Cup when Australia won rather more cosily than the 21-18 scoreline suggested. "We weren't there emotionally for that game after the semi-final," said Howley. "But we won't have any of the baggage this time. You will see an emotionally charged Welsh team who really want a southern hemisphere scalp.

"We can't allow them to turn over the ball as much as we have in the past. Another thing is the physicality we showed in the World Cup. That starts at the scrum and line-out and we have to ask Australia questions in those areas. But we want to play rugby."

To that end, the roof will be shut, a positive move welcomed by Australia, who were forced into a late change yesterday when a tight hamstring forced the centre Rob Horne to stand down meaning that nine of their regular starting XV are absent. Meanwhile, Wales are missing five of their strongest line-up.

A lot will rest on Sam Warburton's shoulders, as he makes his first Wales appearance since that sending-off and if he and his fellow back-rowers can secure ground control – and if Rhys Priestland can give James O'Connor the lesson he probably still requires in fly-halfery – Warren Gatland's men may reprise their victory of three years ago.

That game was notable for a score in the fifth minute from none other than Shane Williams. That, and many more of 59 international tries, will be recounted this weekend as Shane-mania breaks out across Wales. It is not just the passing of an individual but also of a type of wing which will fuel the emotion. "Shane is the last of a dying breed," said Barry John, a No10 they still call the King. "The likes of Gerald Davies and Shane William, they're gone and it's very, very sad because these guys brought something special. I suppose it's now a modern game of jumbo-jet rugby and juggernauts – I don't think it's that appealing."

Shane's six of the best for Wales

Some of the great tries Williams will be remembered for

1. v Fiji 2007

World Cup heartache for Wales, but Williams provides consolation with a burst down the right wing to leave Fijian after Fijian upended before a dramatic swallow dive under the posts.

2. v New Zealand 2003

The game which "made" Williams, his contribution in valiant defeat was stunning with the highlight a try in the corner which summed up his pace, his awareness and his chutzpah.

3. v Ireland 2008

Williams seals his nation the Triple Crown at Croke Park when going through a gap many still believe simply wasn't there and leaving Andrew Trimble doing a tango with his shadow in the process.

4. v South Africa 2008

No arguments about the World Player of the Year award as Williams humiliates the world champions' defence in their own back yard. Pretends to go inside then outside, leaving the Springboks in mid-hokey-cokey.

5. v Australia 2008

Williams the team-man as he breaks through the line, gives a classic offload to Lee Byrne and is then waiting on his wing when the ball eventually comes his way again. His pick-up was sheer class.

6. v Italy 2005

A Gareth Thomas counter-attack led to what was perhaps Williams's most aesthetically pleasing try. A beautiful move was finished off with a glorious sidestep by Williams as he lit up Rome.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star