What is Shane Williams Doing on the Lions Tour?

When WoC looked at its twitter feed yesterday morning and saw that Shane Williams had been called up to the Lions we had to check the date and make sure it wasn’t April 1.  What the heck was Shane Williams doing being called out after a year in semi-retiurement in Japan?

Before getting too emotional about the tear-stained Lions jerseys and their almost spiritual qualities, it’s worth remembering exactly what Williams has been parachuted into the squad to do.  He’s there to play one midweek game, the one before the first test, before going home again, or back on the beer, or whatever he was doing.  Yes, the Lions is that last great tour on earth, and that should be respected, but we’re now living in an age where injuries are more prevalent than ever, and a bit of pragmatism is essential.  He’s been picked because he’s already in Australia and he does not have to overcome the same jetlag as, say, Christian Wade will have to.  He’s giving Gatty a dig out.  Wazza obviously feels he just needs a space-filler for this game, so as to avoid putting one of his test men on the pitch and risking them getting injured. Given the word on the street is that George North and Tommy Bowe will be available by the middle of next week, he’ll have a few more faces to choose from, so it’s not worth flying, say, Timbo Visser, halfway around the world for one game.  It’s a quick-fix.

Anyone who thinks the Lions shirt is being devalued by Shane Williams wearing it probably needs to look down the list of fair-to-middling players that have worn it: Andy Powell, Ugo Monye and Lee Mears spring to mind, and that was just the last tour. Have a look at the touring panel from 2005 and try reminding yourself of the magnificent feats of Gareth Cooper, Iain Balshaw and Ollie Smith. Shane Williams is a two-time Lions tourist and knows what it’s all about.  He was also a ridiculously good player, and will make the midweek team better to watch, even if it’s only for one game.  And if he’s even 15% as good as he was in his last game in an Ospreys jersey, which was only 12 months ago, when he was the matchwinner against Leinster in the Pro12 final, he’ll be more than up to task of filling in for the Lions in a midweek match.

But there are some counter-arguments.  Principally that it devalues the touring party and is a slight on players who have played all year to try and earn a shot at the Lions.  Given the one-shot nature of the call-up, would we prefer to have the jinking Welshman out there instead of, say, a jetlagged Tim Visser? Yes … if it’s a one-shot game. With the injuries coming thick and fast, who’s to say he won’t be needed more? What if Wade or Zebo get injured? At present, he’s 1.5 injuries away from a spot on the test bench, and, for that, I’d rather Visser to be frank – glorified training in Japan followed by a jolly around Oz just isn’t good enough preparation.

Andy Nicol was called up in exactly the same circumstances twelve years ago, and he prayed Matt Dawson wouldn’t get injured – he didn’t think he would last ten minutes. And Nicol hadn’t been in Japan for a year.

There is also the tightrope Gatty is walking with regard to Welsh players – if he picks his boys in all the 50-50s, having called up his mate from the bar, it’s not going to go down well in the squad. We’re sure Gatty has a plan to manage all this, but if Williams ends up being needed for the bench (or the field) in a test, a slightly madcap, fun-filled gamble will have backfired spectacularly.

Advertisements
Previous Post

41 Comments

  1. Stevo

     /  June 17, 2013

    Gatland doesn’t want any of his test starters starting in Canberra, so calling up someone to cover a position where you have a couple of injuries is fair enough. What bothers me is the selection of SOB to start at 6!

  2. Len

     /  June 17, 2013

    I think the indication that this is a once off in case of emergency break glass situation fits. Gatty is watching key players drop like flys in the mid week games (he’s already lost two loose heads, two centres and two wingers). He wants to put as few of those he intends to be involved on Saturday in harms way tomorrow but discovered that he was a man short for the starting 15. Next week with Bowe and North back he won’t have the same issue and you’ll probably see Zebo or Maitland (who ever isn’t in the starting xv for Saturday) demoted to the mid week games. Nice to be able to call on a player of Shane Williams class (even if this has been a light year for him).

    The back row for tomorrow has the look of a shoot out for the bench spot.

  3. Spike

     /  June 17, 2013

    After Williams and Nicol, I imagine a deluge of future fringe contenders hanging around the host country to put themselves in pole position for last minute call-ups. I’d say Chris Ashton is volunteering to lead a tour package in Melbourne right this moment….

  4. Mary Hinge

     /  June 17, 2013

    I wonder, given the somewhat underwhelming form of Heaslip and Faletau so far, if O’Brien could make it at No8 for the first test yet?

    • Dave W

       /  June 17, 2013

      Nope. Heaslip/Faletau have been good/decent – I wouldn’t agree with calling them “underwhelming” at all. Heaslip should have that 8 spot nailed down.

      • Len

         /  June 17, 2013

        I’d agree and the selection of faletau for tomorrow would support that.

        • Mary Hinge

           /  June 17, 2013

          Fair enough Dave W and Len, and you’re both most likely right, but I suspect there’ll be one flyer from tomorrow’s game who’ll start on Saturday. Perhaps Wade to supplant Cuthbert at 14. O’Brien’s form has been excellent. Let’s not rule him out yet.

  5. Watching from Sydney

     /  June 17, 2013

    Shall I bring my boots?

  6. Rava

     /  June 17, 2013

    It’s all well and good saying its OK to pick Williams for a one off game because of possible jet-lag problems for a Visser or other potential replacements. That problem won’t go away and in the event of one or more of the injured not recovering or, heaven forbid, even more injuries will that still be the excuse in a weeks time when Williams is playing his second game?

  7. Ah lads if anything calling up one of your mates to fill in is as much a part of touring as the kangaroo court and fines committee. I get a call whenever I’m back in Dublin to help out my erstwhile teammates at J2/4 level. One midweek game, buy him a few pints after and let it be the end of it.

    When I read it first I must say I was shocked, but with Wade recently arrived it seems like it really is a one off.

  8. Nope I don’t care what possible justification there might be for calling up shane williams .. the minute he pulls on the Lions jersey I switch to supporting the opposition, lying little git that he is. I could barely tolerate his presence in previous squads before he’d retired, I will NOT tolerate it now. Until Williams has issued a Full & public abject apology for the lies he told about Marcus Horan he is the ultimate personification of scum. On this occasion my Australian passport will be dusted off & my Irish passport forgotten about.

    • That’s quite strong. I had no idea Marcus Horan and Williams had previous, I always thought he was pretty saintly as props go. I do remember him taking out BOD off the ball (celtic league final 2011?) and leaving Ireland’s captain playing the world cup with a bust shoulder, but that seemed more a dumb hard-man-on-the-way-downhill thing than a deliberate attempt to do serious damage. What exactly did one of Wales’ greatest wingers accuse one of Ireland’s most underrated wingers (sorry, couldn’t resist) of doing?

    • Colly Noonan

       /  June 17, 2013

      Jesus Christ! There’s always one. Like him or loathe him he is still a fantastic player.

  9. Aoife

     /  June 17, 2013

    I’d never heard about that before (or didn’t remember it at least). Eek.
    From Indo http://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/six-nations/irish-news/when-red-and-green-collide-26522150.html
    “After an ill-tempered Heineken Cup clash between the Ospreys and Munster, the Welsh side made a false claim that Marcus Horan had racially abused centre Elvis Seveali’i, with the Samoan’s claims backed up by Wales star Williams at an ERC hearing. Though the accusation was thrown out, before the rematch Horan spoke about the pain the incident had caused him. “I haven’t spoken to Elvis Seveali’i since the incident and I actually wouldn’t bother going near him or Shane Williams. They didn’t have the guts or the balls to look me in the eyes when they were spouting lies, so I don’t think I would give them the time of day.””

    Still a super player but I can understand the acrimony towards him.

  10. Saul Evans

     /  June 17, 2013

    WOC – you’re at it again with the Welsh nationality stuff – “if he picks his (Welsh) boys in all the 50-50s, having called up his mate from the bar, it’s not going to go down well in the squad.”

    He will pick the best team he thinks will win. The squad will not have any issue with this. There will probably be as many English players in the 23 as Welsh, and Scotland may lose out all together.

    Shane is still playing rugby in Japan, and as last weekend’s victory for Japan against a young Welsh side shows they’re very fit players.

    It won’t happen and Gatland has made it very clear so it’s a moot point but why shouldn’t he be in contention for Test place if his form deserves it. Other retired internationals were touted for the tour a la Wilkinson and Sheridan and Stevens is in the squad.

    There is only one criteria – who Gatland considers the best available selection to play.

    Used to enjoy this blog – but the all the one-eyed stuff is a turn off.

    Outers.

    • Yossarian

       /  June 17, 2013

      the welsh world cup 2015 warm up tour is going really well!Warburton getting captain experience of a longer camp. Wales getting to play Aussies 7 times in two seasons. Gatland will be loved by the WRU by the end of it all. He is keeping his employers very happy. I hear Gavin Henson is packing his bags as we speak….

    • Aoife

       /  June 17, 2013

      You’re mighty sensitive Saul. I find it hard to glean any anti-Welsh sentiment in the post.

      If the Irish coach was in charge of the Lions & picked Irish players for all the 50-50s do you honestly think there wouldn’t be a bit of moaning from other nations?

      • Saul Evans

         /  June 17, 2013

        Not sensitive Aoife – doesn’t really matter what armchair warriors think does it. My point is that this is one squad, one team and discussion on selection should make no mention of nationality – that shows explicit bias.

    • Amiga500

       /  June 17, 2013

      Away and dry yer eyes.

      If Gatland does pick the Welsh fellas in every right call, then those players from England/Scotland/Ireland will feel hard done by, regardless of what PR crap they say in public.

      • Amiga500

         /  June 17, 2013

        In fact – more to the point – if he goes with a half-fit Lydiate and an off-the-pace Warburton, then he is picking his 1st choice flankers from his time at Wales, regardless of the form players (one happening to be Welsh, another English and another Irish).

        • Saul Evans

           /  June 17, 2013

          No – it’ll be because he thinks they are the best option. Warburton is hardly off the pace – he was excellent on the weekend.

          • Amiga500

             /  June 17, 2013

            Despite plenty of slow ball being served up to Mike Phillips.

            Way to listen to Stu Barnes, Scott Quinell et al and ignore your own eyes.

    • One-eyed is unfair, the lads are as objective as any Irish fans can be. That said, I don’t think there are many 50:50s. Could argue that Cuthbert-Zebo is close but there is probably insufficient evidence to support the Munsterman’s inclusion. Phillips v Youngs could be argued as 50:50, especially if you prefer your scrum-half to have a decent pass. Alun Wyn and Parling is close as is Heaslip v Faletau. At hooker he could pick any of the 3 as they have all thrown the odd squint dart and the only likely dodgy call will be Warburton over his superior fellow taff.

  11. Jimbob

     /  June 17, 2013

    Looking at it logistically, it completely makes sense. It’s about 8000 miles from Argentina and around 7000 miles from SA. The jetlag from SA is also tougher to get over as you’re travelling from west to east. Personally, I’d have invited Trimble, Ferg, Ashton or Brown ahead of Williams or Visser based on playing credentials. Williams will struggle with the physicality and overall pace of the game while Visser, as good as he is in attack, won’t tackle (not can’t – he actually won’t… he seems to refuse to do it at any level he plays at!).
    Provided this stays a one off and he’s not under consideration for a test place, I can’t see the players having any problem with it.
    I do, however, have a problem with SOB and Tipuric starting tomorrow. They’ve been the form back rows and deserve to be in place to start the 1st test on Saturday. They’re being dealt a short shift by Gatty and it’s plain for all to see – this could divide the camp if it continues into the 2nd test.

    • Saul Evans

       /  June 17, 2013

      Tomorrow’s back row have been the form players but don’t fit Gatland’s game plan. I’d expect to see O’Brien on the bench on Saturday

  12. Spice

     /  June 17, 2013

    The key word in that statement is ‘if’ so Saul calm down a bit there!
    On the other hand I think WOC need to pay Gatland al little more respect- he is an uber professional coach and to imply that he will do anything else other than pick what he thinks is the best team is ridiculous. He isnt even Welsh, so aside form his obvious professional relationship wil not have anyu deep-routed bias.
    There were an amount of articles of a similar ilk regarding Declan Kidneys selection policies adding fuel to the ‘provincialsim’ fire that you constantly requested commenters to refrain from. Another figment of the imagination.

    • Spice

       /  June 17, 2013

      *please excuse the typing!

    • To be honest we’ve always considered Gatland to be a really good selector. We’re just slightly on edge that he’ll stick with those he knows best (Warburton as captain, anyone?) but we remain hopeful he’ll get the best team available on the pitch. Our issue with Deccie was never one of Munster bias, just that he remained faithful to certain players long past their due date.

      • Saul Evans

         /  June 17, 2013

        Are they mutually exclusive then? Best back row would be twin 7’s Warburton for the breakdown, Tipuric as support linking, Sean O’Brian as the ball carrier…

  13. When considering alternatives to Williams, I prefer wingers who can score tries and tackle. Hence I’d go for the Ballymena clothes horse.

  14. Don’t agree with the Williams call-up…. when I saw the news I thought it was a piss take. If it’s the greatest possible honour for players, how can a semi-retired player currently plying what’s left of his trade in the Japanese second division be worthy of that honour??

    • Saul Evans

       /  June 18, 2013

      If he’s the best option then he’s eligible. Along with Billy Wizz he’s the best wing in the NH for the last 20 years. Personally would love to see him stay on if he proves his fitness today

  15. MarkyB

     /  June 18, 2013

    Ok kids, relax. I think we should be more concerned about Christian Wade getting a call up than Shane Williams. Williams’ brief is clear,train for half an hour, play 1 match and then back to the commentary box. And as many of the comments above have pointed out, he isnt/wasn’t a bad player. Wade on the other hand had a decent season at club level, has one international cap, and he gets a call up. What does that say to seasoned internationals like Trimble, Ashton, even WOC favourite Keet Earls!! Or others like Tim Bidder!! I don’t have a tproblem with talented young players being blooded into big touring squads for experience, but as I said above, if people have issues with recent call ups, they should surely be mote concerned about Wadr than Williams.
    …..
    Post match review – Wade responsible for Brumbies try, and simply too small and not strong enough to avoid being rag-dolled on two occasions when scampering up the wing. Nuff said!!

    • Saul Evans

       /  June 18, 2013

      The blog should be entitled “What is Rory Best doing on the Lions Tour”. That was beyond awful. In fact the whole front row should be demoted to baggage handling duties. I used to play hooker – I’ll fish my long retired boots out from the back of my wardrobe….

      • Paddy

         /  June 18, 2013

        It’s not a Tarot line. But it seems you’re descending into nationalistic trolling. Give it a rest!

  16. MarkyB

     /  June 18, 2013

    * Tim Visser!! Bloody predictive text

  17. Spike

     /  June 24, 2013

    Williams…Court…any chance that Nathan Hines is on hols in Wagga Wagga now that Paulie’s out??

  1. [Drum Roll] The Test Team | Whiff of Cordite
%d bloggers like this: