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Liam Williams: 'There might be a couple of other Welshies coming over'

By Liam Heagney
Liam Williams with Wales at the 2023 Rugby World Cup (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Liam Williams got a surprise when he landed back in Japan after a cheeky trip home to catch up with family and watch Wales as a fan in the opening round of the Guinness Six Nations.

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Snow had fallen in Funabashi when he touched down in the Far East for training with Kubota Spears ahead of the Rugby League One champions’ friendly next weekend versus the touring Super Rugby Chiefs.

“Life is good at the moment,” he quipped on Tuesday after getting over whatever jetlag there might have been from his travels.

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“It’s a bit cold with the snow, so that was a bit of a change. I was back home last week, came back yesterday [Monday] and a couple of inches of snow fell. Life is good. They [Spears] are a great team, a great bunch of boys, some really good staff so yeah, I’m really enjoying my time here.”

Old ties still strongly bind, however. Williams is heavily ensconced with his new club’s title, a campaign that has been hit and miss so far as they are just three wins from six so far. That’s just good enough for sixth place at the minute, 14 points behind Saitama Wild Knights who currently head up the 12-team league.

We’ll have more about Williams’ Japan adventures anon, but Six Nations is the hottest rugby topic at the minute with round one having usually produced three away wins, including a success for Scotland for the time in 22 years away to Wales. That 26-27 outcome frustrated the long-serving full-back.

“Yeah, I was sat in the crowd. Not a great first 40 minutes. They can be proud of that second-half comeback but they gave themselves too much to do.

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“It was quite a change being in the stands. I’d rather be on the pitch but that wasn’t able to happen with the Japanese league being what it is. Quite a change.

“Terrible first half, not so bad second half,” he said before referencing next Saturday’s round two trip to London, a fixture where he hopes Wales build on last weekend’s second-half momentum as they fought back after trailing the Scots by 27 points.

“I would like to hope so. Some of the stuff they played in the second half was really good. Wales haven’t played like that for a little while. Hopefully they can take that into next weekend against England.”

Who caught his eye in that fightback? “Of the young boys coming in, Dafydd Jenkins, who is now the captain, had a good game. Ioan Lloyd, who came on at half-time, Sam Costelow, they went pretty well. They have got a good mix of some oldies there, some old heads with quite a few caps, and some young boys getting their first caps.”

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Mention of oldies, coach Warren Gatland was critical of Josh Adams for throwing the ball into the crowd to prevent Scotland from taking a quick lineout. Williams wasn’t adding to the pile-on on Adams. “A bit of a tough question.

“It is what it is. I’m sure Josh won’t read into it too much into it [the criticism]… it’s just one of those things,” he said, adding about the other winger Rio Dyer: “He’s quick, athletic. Even on the training pitch, he is 100 miles an hour so he is definitely one to watch.”

Williams was more forthcoming in his assessment of Cameron Winnett’s debut at full-back, the position where he played for Wales at the recent Rugby World Cup before the start of his Japanese escapade.

“He’s good. He is quite a quiet little kid, he keeps himself to himself. It was great to see him start on the weekend. I thought he played quite well underneath the high ball.”

Any message for the youngster for England away? “Don’t think too much about the crowd, especially in Twickenham. They are always going to be booing you etc. He just needs to play his own game and I’m sure he will be going well.”

Williams would like to watch the round two game live on TV but he’s not 100 certain yet. “I’m hoping to have a couple of pints but it is on at a quarter-to-two (in the morning Japan time); it depends if I’m up.”

While the 32-year-old is unavailable to play in the Six Nations due to his commitments in the Far East, he spoke like a player on Tuesday who is still very ambitious – not only to wear to the red of Wales again but also to do enough to ensure he catches the eye of 2025 British and Irish Lions boss Andy Farrell.

“I’m available for the summer tour to Australia and then the autumn internationals, which is the week before my second year in Japan. I have put my hand up for those two so we just to wait and see,” he said about his desire for a Wales recall.

As for selection on what would be his third Lions tour, he suggested: “That would be a dream but there are two other players at the moment in my position who are playing really well at the moment for their country and their clubs. I would like to go but I’m just concentrating on my rugby here in Japan first and hopefully play for Wales again.”

Williams is delighted that his League One move is working out as anticipated. Other than a couple of seasons at Saracens, regional rugby in Wales had always his thing. “It’s a bit of change to London but there is a guy who plays here, David Bulbring, who I was at Scarlets with.

“I played with him down there for a couple of years so I spoke to him quite a bit and asked him about the lifestyle, style of play, training grounds, team, staff. I’d pretty good insight from DB. It wasn’t that hard to make the call.”

Chances are he could be soon joined in Japan by some familiar faces from home given the financial uncertainty surrounding the regions. “I think there might be a couple of other Welshies coming over,” he teased. “I know a couple of boys have been speaking about it.” Can he reveal who? “No, not a chance,” he quipped.

It’s clear that Williams is enjoying himself at Kubota. “I have been impressed with everyone, to be honest, all of the Japanese boys come to work every single morning with a smile on their face. Always smiling, always having a laugh and a joke.

“They work their nuts off, to be fair to them. It’s a bit more than I guess I’m used to but those boys work their nuts off; they are out there for an hour after training doing extras, high balls, do loads of kicking. I’m just really impressed with it all.”

The method of building team culture at the club helps. “They have these mini teams, which is really good fun. So there are four different teams and they play games against each other and they get points etc. We don’t do any stuff like that back home. That has been really good fun, really good competition.”

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