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'X-factor' Johnny Williams on playing England a year on from scoring a debut try as an Englishman

By PA

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Johnny Williams scored a try for England at Twickenham last year – but he only has their downfall in his sights on Saturday.

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Born in Weston-super-Mare, but with a “die-hard Welshman” father from Rhyl, the former London Irish and Newcastle centre has proved one of Wales’ Autumn Nations Cup success stories.

Williams might have only played one game so far – a Test debut in pouring rain against Georgia last weekend – but he showed enough to leave Wales head coach Wayne Pivac purring over his “X-factor” quality.

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The 24-year-old only returned to professional rugby 10 months ago after being diagnosed with testicular cancer and undergoing chemotherapy in 2019.

That diagnosis came soon after an impressive try-scoring display in a non-cap England outing when Eddie Jones’ men beat the Barbarians.

But he is now back doing what he does best, and relishing a major challenge opposite England’s midfield pairing of Owen Farrell and Henry Slade in Llanelli this weekend.

“It has always been a dream of mine,” Williams said.

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“These England versus Wales games have definitely been the reason why I wanted to be on the pitch when I was watching at the Principality Stadium with my dad. These big games are the reason you want to make it to the top.

“It (treatment) was a massive setback, but one I can look back on with pride and joy knowing I fought through it to get back on the pitch.

“This is probably the highest level. It’s quite surreal, to be honest, and I am seriously excited.

“England at the minute are definitely up there with their performances and results. I know what England versus Wales means, so I can’t wait to get out on the pitch.”

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Scarlets centre Williams remembers regular trips to Cardiff with his father, watching Wales on many occasions – often against England.

“Most England-Wales games at the Principality I’ve been to, until I was playing myself,” he added.

“He is a massive fan himself – a die-hard Welshman, and Welsh-speaking – so I know what these games mean.

“There is an edge to the players, and it’s a really good edge. You can tell that by the atmosphere and what’s in the air.”

With Wales’ star centre Jonathan Davies currently injured and Japan-based Hadleigh Parkes no longer available for selection, Williams has a golden opportunity to show his quality against the Six Nations champions.

And Williams’ exciting potential in the Test match arena is not lost on Wales boss Pivac.

“It was a good start for him (against Georgia), and we think there is more to come,” Pivac said.

“He is a big, strong guy, and we think he could do a role for us similar to what Hadleigh Parkes did, but he has actually got a little bit more X-factor about him, so he is another one that we think deserves his opportunity.

“Where he has been playing his club rugby in the past, we think he will enjoy the big stage playing against England.”

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'X-factor' Johnny Williams on playing England a year on from scoring a debut try as an Englishman

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