Wales will 'rally round' retiring Shane Williams hopes Shaun Edwards

 

Assistant coach Shaun Edwards revealed how he was left "bewildered" by the talent of Shane Williams as the Wales wing prepares to bring the curtain down on his international career.

Arch-finisher Williams, 34, is Wales' top Test marksman with 57 tries to his name, but will pull on the red jersey for the 87th and last time in next Saturday's Millennium Stadium encounter against Australia.

Former Wigan rugby league star Edwards has worked with the Ospreys flier since joining Warren Gatland's coaching staff in 2008, and recently signed a new deal to remain with the Wales set up through to the 2015 World Cup.

That first year of Gatland's tenure saw Williams in arguably the best form of his life, with his six tries in Wales' RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam success helping him to become the International Rugby Board's Player of the Year.

Edwards, who was famously picked out by TV cameras roaring his approval of a Williams' score against Italy during that clean sweep, admits he could not help but be impressed by the diminutive winger, and has called on the Welsh squad and rugby public to ensure he receives the perfect send off against the Wallabies.

"Sentiment has to come into it," said Edwards. "Just look at (rugby league great) Darren Lockyer's last game in an Australia shirt.

"The lads are going to rally round Shane and want to take him out on a win.

"They expect the people of Wales to rally round, get to the stadium to say goodbye to someone who has been a great hallmark of everything that is good about Welsh rugby.

"The first year I came and saw him play when we won the Grand Slam, I was bewildered by the standard of play he was putting out there on the pitch.

"He is undoubtedly an all-time great of the game. Shane is a symbol of hope that no matter what shape or size you are, if you are good enough and determined enough you can make it."

Williams has scored a host of memorable tries across his 11-year Test career, including his score in the 2008 Grand Slam clinching win over France, his brilliant solo touchdowns against South Africa in the same year, and the five-pointer that sealed a remarkable comeback win over Scotland the 2010 Six Nations.

But the man himself says his favourite try for his country was his first, a run-in on his second cap against Italy during the 2000 Six Nations.

"My favourite was my first," he said. "It was one of the tries I will never forget.

"It was my second cap, we had played France the week before and one of my first touches was an interception pass to Emile Ntamack which I am sure everyone remembers.

"After that I questioned whether I was good enough to play for Wales again but I was lucky enough to be involved from the start against Italy and to score a try.

"It wasn't the most spectacular but you never forget your first and it just gave me massive confidence and it's something I will never forget."

PA

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