Despite hitting 40 in February, Shane Williams feels as fit as he has ever been. Wales’s record try-scorer completed an Iron Man triathlon last September and remains in fine fettle. But he wants to make one thing clear.
Tomorrow’s return to the Principality Stadium with Amman United is not a ruse to turn Warren Gatland’s head and manoeuvre another remarkable British and Irish Lions comeback.
“The main aim is to put him off completely,” Williams laughs. “Which I’ve no doubt he will be if he’s watching on Sunday. I hadn’t done any rugby training for a couple of years, so I’ve been trying to get that awareness back. I’m not as quick as I used to be and some of the skills have gone, but hopefully I’m able to help out.”
Williams joined Amman at the age of eight. It was the club he left to begin his professional career with Neath. He still lives around 400 yards away and, after sporadic periods of coaching the side since his playing retirement in 2015, Williams has featured on a few occasions this season.
He came off the bench in last month’s WRU National Bowl semi-final, which Amman won 29-3. Although Williams suffered a hairline fracture to the jaw thanks to a robust tackle – “it’s still clicking a bit so I’ll have to get my dodging right” – he will start today’s final against Caerphilly on the left wing. His brother Dean is on the right wing, with their brother-in-law Gavin Lewis at full-back.
Williams scored 28 tries in 48 Tests for Wales at this afternoon’s venue, signing off in memorable style by somersaulting over with his final touch against Australia in December 2011. He is delighted to be adding an appendix with Amman.
“I didn’t need to be asked twice,” Williams says. “I’ve enjoyed Grand Slams, great matches and some of the best times of my life in that stadium.
“These guys work five, sometimes six days a week. They train on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They’re never going to be professionals or play for their country, but all of a sudden they are in the national stadium, hopefully with a couple of thousand supporters. Win, lose or draw this weekend, the boys will never forget this experience.
“Gav is a managerial rep and Dean is a plumbing engineer. They are regular Joes that wouldn’t have had this opportunity before. We also have young boys finishing college, policemen, labourers, all walks of life. That adds to the romance of the competition.”
The decider of the WRU National Bowl, for clubs in the fifth tier of Welsh club rugby, takes place prior to the plate and cup finals. Caerphilly, whose hooker Rhys Cleverly doubles up as a Principality Stadium groundsman, lie second in WRU National League Three East A.
With Amman top of National League Three West B, an enticing contest awaits. And Williams says the spectacle can showcase the best of Wales’s community game. “I’m passionate about grass-roots rugby and ensuring that junior clubs continue. Within the British Isles, we’ve seen Mike Tindall go back to his local club. A lot of charity matches and invitational games are springing up for ex-players.
“That goes to show that, as professionals, we weren’t in it solely for the money. I won’t get paid to play. My only incentive is that I enjoy it and I’m in a final with my brother, my mates and boys I have played with since I was eight.”