Williams centre of attention for injury-hit Bath

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The Independent Online

Wales may not have any use for him, indeed they may even have forgotten about him, but he is definitely in Bath's thoughts, if only because he is single-handedly keeping them out of hot water.

Wales may not have any use for him, indeed they may even have forgotten about him, but he is definitely in Bath's thoughts, if only because he is single-handedly keeping them out of hot water.

Andy Williams is by trade a scrum-half, he appeared there as a replacement for Wales against Romania two years ago, but since being signed by Bath back in December, he has been nowhere near the No 9 berth.

Instead, the 24-year-old Williams has been out on the wing. Indeed it was from the right wing that he swooped earlier this month to score an extra-time try which eased Bath into the final of the Powergen Cup at the expense of their local rivals Gloucester.

And while his country does not appear to need him, his club most certainly does. Bath have stumbled into yet another injury crisis among the backs and they do not have an outside centre. Enter Williams.

He will pull on the No 13 jersey tomorrow when Bath step out against Newcastle at Kingston Park in the Zurich Premiership.

"I played a few minutes at outside centre against Leicester last month but I have started all the matches since I have been back on the wing," he said. "I am enjoying my rugby at the moment and that is the same whether I am at 13, 14 or 9.

"It has been a big week in terms of learning the position, but I have enjoyed it and I am looking forward to Sunday."

The head coach John Connolly has been forced into bringing Williams infield due to an injury crisis in the back division that has ravaged the side over the past couple of months.

All of the club's outside centres are sidelined: England's Mike Tindall has a foot injury, South African Robbie Fleck has a problem with a calf, then there is Andy Higgins (hamstring), Frikkie Welsh (thigh) and Alex Crockett (hernia) to be added to the list. The situation is exacerbated by the enforced absence of Nick Abendanon (England) and Tom Cheeseman (Wales) who are both involved in the Under-19 World Cup in South Africa over the next couple of weeks. And to cap it off, inside centres Ryan Davis and Spencer Davey are also out of action at the moment.

At least Connolly will have the services of his batch of international forwards. Matt Stevens, Steve Borthwick, Danny Grewcock and Duncan Bell return, as does Olly Barkley, who partners Williams in the centre.

Eric Elwood, the former Ireland fly-half who played in the Rugby World Cups of 1995 and 1999, has finally decided to retire completely from the game.

The 36-year-old, who now plays for Connacht, for whom he has made 167 appearances, won 35 caps with Ireland between 1993 and 1999.

Connacht meet Sale in the semi-finals of the European Challenge Cup next weekend and Elwood said: "There is the opportunity to finish on a high and we will be giving it everything against Sale."

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