Shane from A to Z . . .

A is for Amman Utd — where it all started, the small club in the Amman Valley that produced one of Wales’s greats. Shane’s younger brother Dean still turns out for the division four west side, while in the words of Shane “90 per cent of the Amman are coming to watch on Saturday”.

B is for British and Irish Lions — two tours and two Tests. on that forgettable 2005 trip to New Zealand, Shane only played in the second Test hammering by the All Blacks before a shoulder injury ruled him out of the finale. in South Africa in 2009, we had to wait until the final match in Johannesburg for a glimpse of the Wales speedster, where he delivered two tries in a stunning win for the tourists.

C is for Cohen — Ben, the Northampton and England wing who when asked by Welsh reporters about Shane Williams’s contribution after a 46-12 mauling at Twickenham, famously replied, ‘Shane who?’. Cohen (right) has since insisted he was enquiring about whether the question was about Williams or full-back Shane Howarth. but the post-match TV footage of the press conference didn’t look great for the Saints man, who quickly became public enemy no. 1 in the Welsh heartlands.

D is for Daisuke (Ohata) and David (Campese) — the two men who stand above Shane in the all-time Test try-scoring charts. Ohata is currently on 69, helped by the number of games he has played against lesser nations. As for Campese’s tally of 64, it is only a tantalising five ahead of Shane’s Welsh record.

E is for Emile Ntamack — the towering French wing was Shane’s first opponent in international rugby. The year is 2000 and the diminutive Neath flyer is making his debut as a second-half replacement as Wales fight a losing cause on home soil. Shane attacks, makes a half-break, then attempts an ambitious off-load only to find the hands of the Toulouse great, who duly collects and races 40 metres unopposed to the try-line. “I swear he had a smile on his face as he intercepted,” recalls Shane in his autobiography.

F is for Freak — (in the nicest possible sense) the word used by Springbok skipper John Smit to describe Shane after his wonder try in Wales’s 37-21 defeat to South Africa at Loftus Versfeld in 2008. “I have never seen a guy move laterally, backwards and forwards so quickly from a standing start,” said Smit. “He is a freak, he is one of the guys who makes rugby such a special game to watch. Every time he got the ball I was calling as many green jerseys across as possible.”

G is for Grand Slams (also gates; ie Ruddockgate and Gatland) — 2005 and 2008 — and Shane played a significant role in both. in the opener against England in Cardiff, Gavin Henson may have famously grabbed the limelight for his match-winning penalty, but it was Shane’s corner try (above) that eased Welsh nerves. another came in the comfortable 38-8 win in Rome and another in the 46-22 romp over Scotland in Murrayfield. but it was 2008 where Shane’s star burned brightest with a stunning double against the Scots and the Azzurri in Cardiff, followed by match-winning efforts against Ireland and France to secure the Triple Crown and then the full house.

H is for Henry (soon to be followed by Hansen) — Graham, otherwise known in his early years as the Great Redeemer and now acclaimed as the man who finally steered the All Blacks to the World Cup Holy Grail. yet Shane and Henry never hit it off and the season after Shane made his breakthrough into the Wales squad, he was thrust into the Test wilderness by the Kiwi. Henry turned to the bludgeon instead of the rapier out wide with Gareth Thomas and Dafydd James preferred in the wing berths and Shane had to bide his time until Henry was long gone for his recall.

I is for IRB player of the year — the prize that capped an incredible 2008 for Shane. Ospreys team-mate and Wales skipper Ryan Jones, All Black fly-half Dan Carter, Italian talisman Sergio Parisse and Scotland scrum-half Mike Blair were others on the shortlist, but Shane was the clear winner, receiving the trophy from previous winner Bryan Habana.

J is for Japan — in four matches against the Cherry Blossoms, Shane has crossed for a remarkable nine tries. five of them came on a low-profile two-Test tour of the far East in 2001 when the Lions were locking horns with the Wallabies Down under, while two arrived in the 98-0 hammering in Cardiff in 2004. Williams also ran out for his 50th cap against Japan during the 2007 World Cup, and two more tries were notched up that day.

K is for kick ahead — those who crammed into the Millennium Stadium for the Grand Slam finale in 2008 will remember it well. The ball is spilled by the French midfield and Shane pounces, hacking the ball ahead twice before diving on the ball in the shadow of the posts. it was a try that sealed another six Nations crown and one that took him above Gareth Thomas as the country’s leading try-scorer.

L is for landmarks — Shane has been passing them at pace in recent years. he is Wales’s all-time Test top try-scorer, their most prolific scorer in World Cups, the top European try-scorer and Wales’s leading touchdown gatherer in the six Nations.

M is for Millennium Stadium — Wales’s theatre of dreams where the international career started and where it will end on Saturday. it was also where Shane celebrated his testimonial on May 17, 2008, when a Shane Williams Wales XV took on a Justin Marshall overseas XV.

N is for Nantes — where Wales’s 2007 World Cup campaign was laid to waste. Williams had enjoyed some impressive try-scoring form during the pool stages and produced another special in the finale against Fiji (right). but ultimately, it was all in vain and Wales and Gareth Jenkins were sent to the exit door.

O is for Ospreys — 13 of them to be exact, Shane, of course, included — who helped Wales end 20 years of hurt by beating England at Twickenham on the way to the 2008 Grand Slam.

P is for Pretoria — where Shane produced one of the great individual tries. Picking up a loose ball on halfway he first outstripped hooker John Smit down the touchline and then, faced with four green jerseys rushing towards him, swerved in and out leaving a trail of Springboks in his wake.

Q is for quick — 23 miles per hour to be precise. The time that TV cameras recorded Shane sprinting at when he scored his try for Wales in the 2008 Grand Slam clash against France.

R is for Racecourse Ground (Wrexham) — the start of the international rehabilitation. The venue for a World Cup warm-up game against Romania where a shadow Welsh team, taken charge by Mike Ruddock, enjoy a 54-18 romp. Shane crosses for two tries and earns a place on the flight to Australia as Wales’s third-choice scrum-half.

S is for scrum-half — where Shane was asked to cover for the 2003 World Cup. Inevitably, Shane’s contribution to the tournament was far more significant than as a third-choice no. 9, but in fairness, he has played half-back with aplomb, notably during the 2008 Triple Crown match in Dublin after Mike Phillips was sin-binned.

T is for tries — 57 in total for Wales and two others in Test rugby for the Lions. from Cardiff to Auckland, Buenos Aires to Rome, Shane’s try-scoring feats are global.

U is for undressed — as for a cheeky advertising campaign for sports drink Powerade. Shane is pictured in his birthday suit, leaping in mid-air, throwing out a pass. The world player of the year wasn’t the only one to take the plunge for the cameras, England captain Steve Borthwick and wing Paul Sackey were others, along with cyclist Rebecca Romero and athlete Phillips Idowu.

V is for vital statistics — 5ft 7in, 12st 8lb, the figures that suggest that Shane had no right to be a force in the realm of the rugby giants. but time after time Goliath was slain on the rugby field and Shane proved that big isn’t always beautiful.

W is for Wallabies (and Waltzing Matilda) — against who the incredible journey will end for Wales’s wing wizard. his last World Cup appearance came against the men in gold, while there have been some memorable tries against the Aussies in the past — remember that hitch kick on the way to the line in those black jerseys against Lote Tuqiri and Co in 2005 (right)?

X is for X Factor — an obvious one, but one that sums up Shane perfectly. The dictionary definition is “a hard to describe influence or quality; an important element with unknown consequences”.

Y is for YouTube — type Shane Williams into the video-sharing website and an array of wonderful moments from Shane’s career appears as well as numerous tributes posted by fans, including “Shane Williams Legend” and “Welcome to the Shane Williams show”.

Z is for zzzzzzz – what you are unlikely to be doing when Shane Williams is in the starting line-up.

Shane from A to Z . . .


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