Williams - No place for egos
Lions flanker Martyn Williams has told skysports.com of his determination to top his career off with victory in South Africa.
By Joe Drabble
Last Updated: 11/05/09 12:51pm
British and Irish Lions flanker Martyn Williams has told skysports.com of his determination to cap a glittering career with victory in South Africa.
The Cardiff Blues star has been named in coach Ian McGeechan's squad to face the Springboks this summer and is bidding to add to his 89 Wales caps with a first Test match start for the Lions.
Williams has been named on the bench in five of the previous six Lions Tests but is the front-runner to line up in the number seven jersey for the opening Test on June 20.
Another consistent season for club and country has ensured the 33-year-old back-rower's place in McGeechan's 37-man party, but Williams claims the call-up came as a shock.
"I didn't see it coming to be honest. At the start of the year everyone has been talking about who is going to make the Lions tour and you are hoping rather than expecting to go," Williams told skysports.com.
"After the Six Nations it was a nervy few weeks. Everyone was saying 'are you going? are you going?' and we were expecting to know before everyone else but we found out at exactly the same time.
"We watched the press conference on Sky Sports just like everyone else so when my name came up it was a great feeling."
McGeechan takes his Lions back to South Africa - the scene of their famous 1997 triumph - later this month, and they begin their Test preparations against Highveld XV on May 30.
The team spirit and camaraderie of the victorious '97 side was highlighted as the key to victory 12 years ago, and Williams admits this year's tour has no room for egos.
"When you go on a Lions tour, I think Phil Vickery said 'you have got to leave your ego behind you'," he said.
"You compete as hard as anybody to get that jersey but if you don't you have still got to contribute to the tour and hopefully be successful that way.
"I have been on the bench five out of the last six Tests and I would love to get a start. But saying that, for me, I just want to be a part of a successful tour as well - a team that wins the series."
Williams, whilst happy with the balance and quality of the Lions squad, also spoke of his surprise that England and Leicester flanker Tom Croft failed to make the touring party.
"Once your name is read out the rest of it is a bit of a blur really, who's in there," he continued.
"But when you sit down and look at the quality it is awesome. You look at the players who are on stand-by - they could have easily got in the squad as well.
"It's so competitive because there are so many good players in Britain. I think Tom Croft is unlucky to be missing out because I think he is awesome but in saying that there are always going to be players who feel hard done by, but it's a tough call at the end of the day."
Williams received a taste of what may be in store for him in South Africa in the autumn when Wales were edged out 20-15 by the Boks at the Millennium Stadium.
And the Wales openside flanker was quick to heap praise on the power and ability of the current world champions.
"We played against them in the autumn and they are a pretty phenomenal side and they have pretty much the same squad which won the World Cup," he said.
"Particularly in the back-row, the strength in depth of their back-row players is unbelievable. It is going to be really, really tough, probably as tough as the New Zealand tour four years ago.
"It is not only the Test matches, it is the provincial games leading up as well. For a lot of the provincial boys, playing against the Lions is going to be the biggest game of their lives."
Williams was an integral part of Wales' Grand Slam winning campaign in 2008, and, after tasting long-awaited success with Cardiff in this year's EDF Energy Cup, the experienced forward is hungry to defy the bookmakers and cap a glittering career with Lions glory.
"The most difficult thing is that four different teams and four sets of players are used to playing four different ways and they have just six weeks to gel," he added.
"The odds are stacked massively against you but sometimes that brings the best out of everyone. There will be no issues regarding bonding and Geech and the coaches know what it's all about.
"A win would top my career off and winning the Heineken Cup would obviously be nice. People keep saying to me 'you want to start a Lions Test' and I do, I'm desperate to. But it is no good starting a Lions Test and losing all the games.
"It would be massive for everybody if we can go over there and win it."