Of the 28 players selected for this year’s 6 Nations squad by Wales coach Warren Gatland, there was one major name missing from the team sheet, that of 98 times capped flanker Martyn Williams.
Williams, also capped for times by the British and Irish Lions, will have been expected to be in the squad for this year’s tournament by most people throughout the rugby world, even if the player himself may well have seen the writing on the wall.
The unassuming loose forward has been performing at the highest level for over a decade now and when the Cardiff Blues’ player was left out of Gatland’s squad for the Autumn internationals it was assumed by many that Williams was simply being given a rest so as to keep the 35 year old fresh for the 6 Nations and then the World Cup which will take place this coming Autumn.
Although a rest may have been all that Gatland had in mind originally, the performances of Sam Warburton and Dan Lydiate in the Autumn will have given him many more options in the back row than the Wales coach had previously felt he had.
Not two years ago Gatland was looking ahead to the World Cup thinking that Williams may be one of his only options for the tournament which takes place in New Zealand. The former Wasps head coach was so concerned that he took steps to convince Williams to not retire from international rugby for a second time, and instead play fewer matches for the Blues so as to preserve his career until after this Autumn’s show piece event.
Wales squad in full:
Forwards: Paul James (Ospreys), John Yapp (Blues), Craig Mitchell (Ospreys), Ryan Bevington (Ospreys), Scott Andrews (Blues), Matthew Rees (Scarlets, capt), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Bradley Davies (Blues), Ryan Jones (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Blues), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Andy Powell (Wasps), Josh Turnbull (Scarlets), Toby Faletau (Dragons), Dan Lydiate (Dragons).
Backs: Mike Phillips (Ospreys), Dwayne Peel (Sharks), Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets), Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Rhys Priestland (Scarlets), James Hook (Ospreys), Jamie Roberts (Blues), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Shane Williams (Ospreys), Morgan Stoddart (Scarlets), Leigh Halfpenny (Blues), Lee Byrne (Ospreys).