Williams still waiting for Welsh No 10

Swansea's stand-off is looking forward to opposing Neil Jenkins in Saturday's Swalec Cup final. Rob Cole met him
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The Independent Online
The legends of the past all agree that he should have been the man at No 10 for Wales, but Aled Williams, the Swansea stand-off, is still waiting for the call from the selectors.

Not that the 31-year-old Williams has given up hope. He has to keep trying in order to keep up with his wife, Ruth, who has four times as many caps for Wales at lacrosse than her husband has at rugby union.

But Williams intends to use his third appearance in the Swalec Cup final on Saturday as another reminder to everyone that he can perform on the big stage when he comes face-to-face with the current Welsh No 10, Pontypridd's Neil Jenkins.

It is the shoot-out that should decide the destination of the cup. Jenkins has scored 107 points in Ponty's run-up to the final, while it was Williams's dynamic extra-time break against Cardiff that paved the way for Roddy Boobyer's try which saw Swansea through in the semi-finals.

Since he graduated from the Welsh Schools Under-18 team in 1983, Williams has been one of the most consistent players on the Welsh club scene. Now in his second stint at St Helens, he has helped Swansea win the Heineken League twice in the past four years, hammer Australia and reach two cup finals.

Yet while everything has gone well for him on the club front, including a cup final appearance with Bridgend, his national aspirations have been stymied by the selectors during an age of greater change than ever before in the Welsh pivot position. Malcolm Dacey, Gareth Davies, Jonathan Davies, Tony Clement, Bleddyn Bowen, David Evans, Paul Turner, Colin Stephens, Adrian Davies and Neil Jenkins have all filled the No 10 shirt since Williams moved into the senior ranks, yet he has been confined to 60 minutes as a wing replacement in Namibia.

"I thought I might have had a chance to win a cap at outside-half on that 1990 tour, but they stuck with Tony Clement," Williams said. "Playing for Wales was great, but I'm still hoping that I might get a chance to play in my rightful position.

"It has been frustrating seeing so many players being given the chance to fill the Welsh No 10 jersey. The way I look at it is that they were given the opportunity to succeed or fail. I haven't had that chance, but that's all I'm looking for - the opportunity to prove I'm good enough to play at outside-half for Wales.

"There are times when I think nothing is going to come my way, and that I should just carry on enjoying my club rugby, but what keeps me going is that Paul Turner got his first chance at 32."

Throughout his Swansea career Williams has been fortunate to have one of the world's greatest half-back talents feeding him in Robert Jones. Williams has no doubts that Jones is "the best scrum-half in the world - a dream to play outside", and Jones ranks his partner very highly.

"It is always easier to admire a player's talents when you are playing with him week in, week out," Jones said. "But I would certainly rate Aled as one of the best outside-halves I have played with.

"He has a hell of a lot of ability and skill and one of the most important qualities he possesses is vision. He is one of the old school Welsh outside- halves in that he is able to make breaks and change the course of events.

"It is farcical that the only cap he has had so far has been as a replacement wing. For at least half of the period he has been playing senior rugby he has been regarded as the best outside-half in Welsh club rugby. The fact he is the designated reserve for the World Cup shows he is still in the selectors' minds."

Williams modelled himself on the great Phil Bennett, one of his biggest fans in recent years, and rates Jonathan Davies as the best outside-half he has played against. "There were things that Phil Bennett could do that were awesome. He used to control everything at Llanelli," Williams said. "But of all the outside-halves who have played for Wales in my time in the game Jonathan stands out as the best. His running skills were exceptional."

Injury to Davies and Dacey in 1986 gave Williams his first big chance to shine in front of the selectors when he played for the Probables in the final Welsh trial at Cardiff Arms Park. "I scored a try and thought things went well, but the Possibles won the match and I didn't get a look in," Williams said.

Three years later he exacted some revenge by steering Bridgend to victory over John Ryan's Welsh team and he has three Wales A caps to put alongside his single international appearance. But still the Llandovery College product wants to press on to earn the right to wear the Welsh No 10 jersey. If he can make it third time lucky in the cup final then he might yet be given the chance.

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