Williams the unsung hero

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The Independent Online
BY TIM GLOVER

Robert Jones describes his partner Aled Williams as "one of the old school Welsh outside-halves in that he is able to make breaks and change the course of events." Presumably Jones would not put Neil Jenkins in that category.

Williams and Jenkins are expected to play a pivotal role in the final of the Swalec Cup at Cardiff Arms Park today and for the Swansea stand- off the occasion provides the perfect opportunity to embarrass further the new Wales regime. In Swansea's 16-9 victory over Cardiff in the semi- finals, Williams comprehensively outplayed Adrian Davies and for good measure provided the break that led to a match-winning try in extra time.

Alex Evans, the Cardiff and Wales coach, chose Jenkins and Davies for the World Cup squad and the 31-year-old Williams is merely a reserve for South Africa. "Aled is one of the best outside-halves I've ever played with," Robert Jones said. "It's farcical that he's only won one cap."

Williams's solitary cap was nothing to write home about. He played on the wing for 60 minutes against Namibia five years ago. On that occasion Tony Clement, the Swansea full-back and captain today, was the Wales stand- off. "It's been frustrating seeing so many players wearing the No 10 jersey," Williams said. "The way I look at it is that they were given the opportunity to succeed or fail. I haven't had that chance. There are times when I think that nothing is going to come my way in international rugby and that I should just carry on enjoying the game at club level. But what keeps me going is that Paul Turner got his first chance when he was 32. My ambition and desire to play for Wales is as strong as ever."

Whatever the reasons for ignoring Williams (perhaps because he once described the Big Five, alias the Welsh selectors, as a bunch of old farts) they had better be good for in recent years Wales have played virtually everybody bar Uncle Dai Cobbley at outside-half: Malcolm Dacey, Gareth Davies, Jonathan Davies, Tony Clement, Bleddyn Bowen, David Evans, Paul Turner, Colin Stephens, Adrian Davies and Jenkins. For the World Cup there is the possibility that Jenkins, who might have lost his place but for the fact that he is a world-class goalkicker, will play at centre with Adrian Davies at stand- off.

If Williams has been instrumental in guiding Swansea to the final then Pontypridd are similarly indebted to Jenkins. Pontypridd, who have had by far the easier route to the final, scored 287 points in the process, Jenkins contributing 107 of them with three tries, 31 conversions and 10 penalties.

Despite their pre-eminence, Pontypridd, the only team to give Cardiff a run for their money in the Heineken League, have an empty cupboard. They have been beaten twice in cup semi-finals. "I'm sure we'll be more relaxed in the final," Jenkins said. "It's vital we get some reward for the work that has been put in. We have tremendous ball winning capacity in the line-out through Greg Prosser and Mark Rowley, a powerful scrum and plenty of talent behind."

Swansea, six times finalists, have only won the cup once and the bookmakers are not sure what to make of it. Yesterday Ladbrokes hedged their bets, making both clubs 5-6. A punt on Ponty, Jenkins and John rather than Swansea, Williams and Ruddock would appear to be the best bet.

ARMS PARK TEAMS

PONTYPRIDD V SWANSEA

Crispin Cormack 15 Anthony Clement (capt)

David Manley 14 Alan Harris

Jason Lewis 13 Roddy Boobyer

Steele Lewis 12 David Weatherley

Owen Robins 11 Simon Davies

Neil Jenkins 10 Aled Williams

Paul John 9 Robert Jones

N Bezani (capt) 1 Christian Loader

Phil John 2 Garin Jenkins

Andrew Metcalfe 3 Keith Colclough

Greg Prosser 4 Paul Arnold

Mark Rowley 5 Andrew Moore

Matthew Lloyd 6 Alan Reynolds

Dale McIntosh 8 Stuart Davies

Richie Collins 7 Robert Appleyard

Replacements (Pontypridd): (from) G Jones, G Lewis, L Jarvis, D Gibbon, M Smith, L Phillips, L Harvey, M Spiller.

Replacements (Swansea): 16 R Llewellyn, 17 M Thomas, 18 R Moriarty, 19 L Griffiths, 20 Robbie Jones, 21 S McIntosh.

Referee: Clayton Thomas (Neath). Kick-off: 3.0 (BBC2 Wales)

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