Thomas' record within reach for Williams after stroll past Japan

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The Independent Online

Shane Williams set his sights on becoming the leading try-scorer in Welsh rugby history after overtaking Ieuan Evans during Thursday night's 72-18 victory over Japan.

Williams scored two of Wales' 11 tries – the 33rd and 34th of his Test career – to move second in the all-time charts and now sits just five behind World Cup captain Gareth Thomas.

The winger did not enjoy his best outing for Wales and was targeted for some heavy treatment early on by the tough Japan defence.

But he has now scored in all three of Wales' World Cup games and boasts a strike rate of 34 tries in 50 Tests. To put that into context, Evans scored 33 in 79 internationals and Thomas has 39 from 99.

Williams said: "I'd love to be the top scorer for Wales. It is an honour to be above players like Ieuan and I still have a couple of years left in me. My strike rate is not too bad! But it is not something I would have dreamed of when I first started.

"I wouldn't have dreamed I would still be playing now, the way rugby is going but I am loving it. I am glad I have achieved something I can tell the grand-kids. I am always hungry for the ball and when the game is as open as that it suits me.

"I tried to get involved as early as I could. I had a couple of touches at the start and was welcomed very nicely by the Japanese! That was to be expected really. It was a tough game."

Wales were asked some difficult questions early on by a Japan side not short on determination, and trailed for a brief period after winger Kosuke Endo finished a 95-metre counter-attack for one of the tries of the tournament.

But Japan were eventually outclassed by a Wales side who rediscovered their joie de vivre after a stuttering start to the tournament.

The bonus point was secured by half-time with James Hook, Rhys Thomas and Kevin Morgan adding to Alun-Wyn Jones' opening try. Wales ran in seven tries after the interval with two from Martyn Williams and scores each from Mike Phillips, Dafydd James and Gareth Cooper.

"It was a lot tougher than we anticipated. They are very aggressive in the tackle and the lads certainly know they have been in a game," said Williams. "I enjoy games like that when I think about it afterwards. But at the time it was difficult. It may look easy, but you do a lot of running.

"It was humid in the stadium. It was like playing in Japan. It was a real hard game, they tackled hard and we knew it would be a nice open game, but it will certainly take the boys a few days to get over."

Mike Phillips will not settle for being second-choice scrum-half after a man-of-the-match performance.

"It is frustrating being on the bench. I have spent a lot of time there lately," he said Phillips. "It is not very nice for someone to tell you that you are the number two. I worked really hard during the summer and I just told myself that if I get a chance I have got to prove to people I am good enough."

Unless Fiji beat Australia tomorrow, Wales' final match against the islanders in Nantes will be winner-takes-all for a place in the quarter-finals.

Japan's two tries came from a turnover virtually on their own line and an interception – the kind of situations Fiji will relish.

"The Japanese threw everything at us. Look at the tries they scored," said Williams. "Fiji will probably be a similar game. They enjoy open rugby and love the turnovers.

"Unfortunately, we are susceptible to interceptions. We can't afford that, especially against the bigger sides. There were a couple of turnovers and interceptions and that is really not acceptable."

The Japan coach, John Kirwan, believes Wales will be too "dangerous" for Fiji.

Kirwan knows how potent an attacking force Fiji can be after they pipped Japan 35-31 earlier in the tournament. But he said: "I think if Wales play like they did against us last night, they will go through.

"When Wales get their offloads going and get over the gain-line they are a really dangerous side. Fiji will have to play really well just to compete."

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