x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Shane Williams praise for British & Irish Lions wingman Chrisitan Wade

"I enjoy the way he plays, he's an aggressive runner, he's very fast, enjoys taking defenders on, my kind of guy, really," the Welshman said of his teammate ahead of the game against ACT Brumbies.

Shane Williams, left, talks to Lions coach Warren Gatland during training at the North Sydney Oval yesterday. David Rogers / Getty Images
Shane Williams, left, talks to Lions coach Warren Gatland during training at the North Sydney Oval yesterday. David Rogers / Getty Images

SYDNEY // Shane Williams knows his surprise recall to the British & Irish Lions will be a one-night cameo but believes fellow winger Christian Wade could go on to play in the Test series against Australia.

The pair have flown thousands of miles to bolster the Lions and will start against ACT Brumbies in Canberra today, giving respite to a bruised and battered Lions back line ahead of the first Test against the Wallabies on Saturday.

The selection of Williams, four years after he bowed out of the 2009 Lions tour with a brilliant try against South Africa and two years after he last played Test rugby for Wales, was an unexpected decision.

Wade's call-up from England's tour of Argentina was also something of a surprise given that he had made his full international debut only the previous week.

At 36 and 22, respectively, Williams and Wade are at opposite ends of their careers but the similarities do not end with the unlikelihood of their presence on the Lions tour.

Bucking the international trend for hulking wingers, both stand around 5ft 8ins and weigh less than 90kg. But they are blessed with great balance, quick footwork and blistering acceleration.

Williams said he had paid "close attention" to Wade's progress and had kept tabs on him through his former Wales teammate Stephen Jones, who is now at Wade's club, London Wasps.

"He's a very talented player, new on the scene and already raising eyebrows," Williams said yesterday. "He's obviously a massive talent, I enjoy the way he plays, he's an aggressive runner, he's very fast, enjoys taking defenders on, my kind of guy, really.

"I'm looking forward to playing with him and seeing what he's got. He's more than capable of showing what he's got and being part of this Test series, I think."

The appreciation cuts both ways, with Wade saying it was a "massive thrill" to be able to play alongside the former Wales winger, who scored 58 tries in 87 Tests.

"Shane's one of those players who I've watched and tried to learn a lot off from a distance," he said. "To be able to play alongside side him is probably beyond my dreams.

"I probably wouldn't have got the chance to play against him in my career, and to play with him is taking it to the next level."

Wade also has a good dose of the easy confidence that carried Williams through a career playing against much bigger men.

"It's just a massive honour to get the call to come over here. I'm happy to be here and if I do get the chance to play in the Test it would probably be the proudest moment in my life," he said, pausing before adding: "So far."

Wade flew 12,000km to join up with the Lions after getting the call-up on at the weekend along with the England centre Brad Barritt, who had a similar distance to travel from his holiday in California.

"Luckily, we have a brilliant back-room staff here at the Lions; they seem to find a way of making the impossible happen," said Barritt, the South Africa-born centre, who will also start against the Brumbies.

"I had the boots delivered this morning and quite strangely I had a gum guard in my toiletry bag. Not sure how that got there."

Williams made the comparatively modest trek of 7,900km from Japan, where he has been playing club rugby, after getting the call from the Lions backs coach Rob Howley on Saturday and was confident he would be able to make the step up today.

"Of course, it's going to be difficult but we're professional players," he said. "We've all got to do our homework and make sure we're be mentally prepared because we don't want to let anyone down. We want to go out there and give it 100 per cent and do what we do best.

"Hopefully, it won't be too much of a shock to the system [but] if I felt for one second I wasn't going to be ready for this game, or good enough for this game, I'd have told Rob to stick it.

"To be given this opportunity is a dream come true. If by me playing it can help the Lions recover and win that Test on Saturday, then I'm really proud to be part of it."

* Reuters

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