Liam Williams believes a groin operation has finally solved a recurring injury problem that threatened to disrupt his bid to help Saracens win another Premiership and European Champions Cup double and secure a place in the Wales squad for next year’s World Cup in Japan.
Williams missed 12 weeks of last season after sustaining the injury in Wales’s Autumn test with Georgia and saw a number of experts who tried to get him back into action without the need of surgery. A shoulder injury then made it a first season of real frustration despite the British and Irish Lions star picking up a Premiership winners’ medal with Saracens. He was reduced to the role of spectator at Twickenham as Saracens defeated Exeter 27-10 in the play-off final.
Then, during Saracens pre-season training programme, Williams was struck down by the same groin injury and this time the management teams of Wales, Saracens and the player himself opted for surgery. It has proved to be the right call with Williams signalling his return to action with a 25 minute hat-trick as Saracens defeated newly promoted Bristol 44-23 last weekend. While he admits the total distance covered in scoring those three tries was “only 12 metres”, it was a significant step forward for one of the most exciting attacking talents in European rugby.
During his latest fitness battle Williams has seen his Wales captain Sam Warburton forced to retire due to recurring injuries and Saracens team mate Duncan Taylor ruled out until June by a double knee ligament rupture. There have been other high profile injuries in the opening weeks of the new season and Williams accepts that while the surgery has got him back onto the pitch, nothing can be taken for granted.
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Williams told RugbyPass: “You have to enjoy every minute of what you love doing because you never know when it could be taken away. I started pre-season after taking a couple of weeks off and the groin became a problem again and so I went under the knife. There is a bit of a scar but it’s not a problem and I had the operation exactly eight weeks ago.
“This is what we do as our job on a daily basis – it’s what we have chosen to do in life. I wake up in the morning and love to get into the gym and throw a few weights around and you really do need to live in the moment.
“Operations and injuries mean you just have to work to get back to fitness and there are lots of ups and downs in rugby. Having to do your rehab on your own and not being with the rest of the boys is tough but that’s life. The club have been really helpful and family and friends have been great and it’s about getting your head screwed on and down to that rehab work to get back as soon as possible.
“The groin injury first happened last year against Georgia and I was out for 12 weeks and then I injured my shoulder which meant I missed the play-off semi-final and final with Sarries. I was running during pre-season and knew it just wasn’t right and so that is why we went for the operation.
“Now, I just want to play and I do not want the same thing to happen again, having missed so much of last season. I haven’t been looking at in terms of “it’s happened now so it’s a year away from the World Cup”. I just want to be available for Saracens and Wales. I would love to win the Premiership and European Champions Cup in the same season and that is what we are working towards. We scraped through the pool stage in Europe last season and Leinster have set the standard for everyone.”
Besides helping Saracens repeat their 2016 Premiership and European double, Williams will also be involved in Wales’s Autumn tests with Scotland, Australia, Tonga and South Africa and the selection battle will be fierce with Josh Adams, Steff Evans, Hallam Amos, Williams, Leigh Halfpenny and George North vying for the back three starting places.
Williams’ next game is against former Gowerton school friend and Wales No10 Dan Biggar and he said “It was great to score the hat-trick against Bristol and it was a case of being in the right place at the right time.
“I didn’t have to do much for them! I am now really looking forward to playing against Dan (Biggar) at Northampton and having a lager with him after the game. There are no easy games in the Premiership.”
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