When Wales run out against Australia on Saturday it will be the last time they are able to name record try scorer, Shane Williams. Over the last 12 years Williams has been key to Wales’ succeses scoring 55 tries in 86 appearances, winning two Grand Slams and making it to a World Cup Semi Final earlier this year. He will make his 87th appearance and final appearance at the Millennium Stadium, scene of so many of his international triumphs.
The impact of Shane Williams and his place in the hearts of all involved in Welsh Rugby was seen in their training session on Tuesday. All the players and coaches took to the field and trained wearing ‘Shane Williams’ masks. Williams was also given the honour of announcing the team for Saturdays repeat of the World Cup Bronze medal match. Williams’ face is everywhere in the Wales team hotel, with a picture even placed above the urinals in the toilets.
Williams although always recognised for his individual performances has always been the ultimate professional and nothing has changed ahead of the clash with Australia. The World Cup semi finalists have not beaten any of the Tri Nations sides for three years now and Williams is targeting going out on a high. He is still talking with excitement about the future of Welsh Rugby despite the fact it will be a future without Shane Williams on the wing. “The future for Wales is exciting. We have a number of talented youngsters coming through, brimming with confidence.” It seems strange to think of a Welsh team without Williams in nowadays, but it is a thought the Welsh public will have to get used to. The end of one era marks the beginning of another though, and with the likes of Sam Warburton, George North and Toby Faletau set the world alight in New Zealand and the Welsh are looking set to maintain their place at Rugby’s top table for many years to come.
Saturday will be an emotional day for Williams and the Welsh, but the future is exciting. A future that Williams will no doubt be enjoying with the rest of us.