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Austin Healey's extreme sledging 'mentally broke' Shane Williams

By Online Editors
Shane Williams and Austin Healey

Shane Williams insists the Guinness Six Nations title clash between Wales and England will be played out against a chorus of “extreme” sledging between the warring players.

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The Principality Stadium hosts a seismic showdown between the Championship’s only unbeaten sides that will see the winners march on towards the Grand Slam.

Former Wales and Lions wing Williams, who faced England 11 times in a glittering 11-year Test career, believes that only by shrugging off the inevitable baiting that accompanies such a fierce rivalry can a team thrive.

“A lot of these lads will have played together, but that won’t matter in Cardiff,” said Williams, who is taking part in the LMAX Exchange Everest Rugby Challenge on behalf of Wooden Spoon.

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“They’ll know all their little secrets from their time together with the Lions, the nitty gritty.

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“I can assure you that for however long that game goes on, Alun Wyn Jones won’t shut up. I can vouch for that. Kyle Sinckler likes to talk as well. Owen Farrell doesn’t shut up either.

“The banter is going to be extreme, it really is. It’s about trying to put off your opposition.

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Marauding England prop Kyle Sinckler is vocal on the pitch (Adam Davy/PA)

“A nice little late hit on Owen Farrell a couple of times to try and put him off, as we saw Ross Moriarty do a couple of seasons ago. That didn’t work!

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“If you can make Owen Farrell miss a couple of kicks, then you’ve done your job.

“Or if you can put Alun Wyn Jones off his game, or shut up the likes of Sinckler, then you’re doing your job. That’s the nature of the beast.

“It’s not all physical out there – you have to be mentally tough and be able to take stick. They’ll say anything they can to put you off.

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Shane Williams says Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones will bait England throughout the game (David Davies/PA)

“If you retaliate then it’s a yellow or a red card. Thank you very much – I’ll have that all day long. I’ll take one on the chin for that.

“That’s what rugby is and I’ve experienced it, especially in these big games. But they’ll say whatever they want on the field, but as soon as the whistle goes they’ll shake hands – and that’s rugby.”

Three games into his Test career, Williams was given a brutal taste of how effective a taunting opponent can be.

Austin Healey
Austin Healey (pictured) was successful at sledging Shane Williams (Toby Melville/PA)

Wales were thrashed 46-12 by England in his debut Six Nations campaign and Williams was unable to ignore the taunts made by opposite number Austin Healey.

“One of my first games was at Twickenham and we got absolutely pummelled,” Williams said.

“I was playing against Austin Healey, who didn’t shut up for 80 minutes. I remember thinking ‘no wonder my family don’t like the English if this guy is anything to go by’.

“He completely put me off my game. He absolutely mentally broke me. He really did.

“He was telling me ‘come on Williams, I thought you had gas. You’re much slower than I thought you’d be’.

“By the end, I was looking at the touchline thinking ‘I’ve had enough now, he’s absolutely broken me’. He’s like that – he’s still chopsy. But it’s banter and that’s how it goes.”

For more information on the LMAX Exchange Everest Rugby Challenge, or to donate, visit everestrugby.org.uk.

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