Shane Williams discusses charity bike rides and rugby pay cuts amid coronavirus crisis
By Paul Gilmour
Last Updated: 26/04/20 9:44am
Despite having 774 miles worth of charity marathons, ironman events and bike rides wiped from his schedule due to coronavirus, Shane Williams, like many times in his rugby career, would not accept defeat.
Inspired by "one of the good guys", Geraint Thomas, Williams vowed to complete the endurance exercises on a bike in his house using a virtual cycling app to encourage public participation.
In a wide-ranging interview with Sky Sports News, Wales' record try scorer answers questions about not forgetting cancer patients during the pandemic, outlines why authorities should not push players too hard, and even shares his thoughts on recent Donald Trump comments.
As of Sunday morning, Williams is on day four of his mammoth effort and has raised over £10,000 for NHS and cancer charities.
"We've had a great response and have already hit our target," Williams said.
"The ride is 14 segments, two a day with the first at 8am and it's 55.3 miles per session."
Williams is using the Zwift app to participate and is getting over 300 people joining him live for the workout.
The 2018 Tour de France champion Thomas will soon be one of those and is helping out after raising over £300,000 himself from cycling for 36 hours over three days.
"He'll be joining in during the week and people will love riding along with someone like him. Ryan Jones and Mike Tindall have been involved, George North (too), a lot of players," Williams added.
"I was meant to do a cycle challenge with Mike Phillips and had a competition going but that's going to be postponed unfortunately. I'd love to call him out. Let's be seeing you Mike!"
Leading oncologist of 50 years, Professor Karol Sikora, recently warned that delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment could result in more fatalities than from coronavirus, while Health Secretary Matt Hancock has urged the public not to let the virus prevent them from tackling urgent medical needs.
"There are still people out there that have cancer. People are frightened to go to hospitals now and it's probably the scariest place you can visit," Williams said.
"We're trying to get funding for places like Velindre Cancer Centre so people can still get treatment and are encouraged to go to facilities in hospital.
"The big awareness at the moment is the NHS and rightly so but what we don't realise is that a lot of charities rely on funding."
Such issues are a world away from professional sport but like all businesses and industries there are plans being put in place to ease their way back once safe to do so.
For rugby authorities that means balancing the remaining Six Nations games with a new tournament early next year, not to mention the autumn internationals and British & Irish Lions tour in 2021.
"As a Welshman let's write off the Six Nations," Williams joked. "It could be weeks or months. It would be difficult to finish off the Six Nations, have an autumn series, continue the season and then in September the season starts again.
"How do we fit it all in? I don't think we'll be able to. Rugby union is one of the hardest games out there. To get these players to put that effort in is just too much."
Like in most sports, players are either taking pay cuts or in active discussions over reducing their salary. Earlier this month, senior Wales players took a 25 per cent cut.
"I didn't expect anything less. The players are doing the right thing and making sure there is a future for these clubs and regions," Williams said.
"I know the majority of the lads I played with or against over the years fight tooth and nail for their club, for their country and they will never have to fight so hard as they are at the moment.
"I've spoken to some established international rugby players who have said to the regions 'let's make sure we take a bigger pay cut (as players with 50 or 60 caps) than the lads that haven't or the youngsters not making as much'. I commend them."
For Williams, now is the time to temporarily push competitive action to the back of the mind, unless, of course, that involves biking for charity.
"There's a lot of sport coming but at the moment we've just got to be patient, clever and respect what the experts say.
"By experts I don't mean Presidents of America. I mean doctors and nurses that know what they're talking about!"