Martyn Williams will line-up against his home country for the first time in his illustrious career when he takes to the field for the Barbarians at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday 4th June and he has received backing from an unlikely source – new team-mate and one time foe Iain Balshaw.
The Biarritz wing and former England international, who received a Rugby World Cup winner’s medal after representing his country at the 2003 tournament, will also feature for the Baa-Baas and is no stranger himself to the challenge of playing against his former international colleagues.
Balshaw has faced England twice at Twickenham on Baa-Baas duty, winning on both occasions (14-17) in 2008 and 26-35 a year later, and he says the 98-times capped Williams will thrive on the unique experience of turning up in the away changing room at the Millennium Stadium to face Wales.
“It’s going to be a great day for him, I’ve played against England a couple of times and I enjoyed every minute of it,” said Balshaw.
“You are playing against your national team, against guys and structures you know and it adds a whole different dimension to the game. I just know he is going to go out and give it his all in front of his home fans.
“It’s going to be huge. Playing Wales in Wales always is. We know it’s going to be tough but hopefully we can celebrate the best of rugby and help the Welsh guys prepare for World Cup.
“It’s a big game for them. It’s going to be a stepping stone in their preparations for later this year and they will be trying out combinations and sequences that are key to their progression.
“It’s a good opportunity for them to test their players and see exactly where they are before the competition, but they are going to be facing a side packed with internationals.”
And Balshaw, whose team-mates alongside Williams will include Sergio Parisse, Ruan Pienaar, Carl Hayman and Francois Steyn, is particularly looking forward the Millennium Stadium experience himself.
The game is being staged to celebrate 130 years of the Welsh Rugby Union, which gives it an added edge as full caps are being awarded to new Wales captain Sam Warburton and his teammates.
“For me I can’t wait for the game and to be part of the Barbarians team again – it’s every rugby players dream,” he said.
“It’s a fantastic brand with great history so it’s fitting we help celebrate the history of Welsh rugby.
“Rugby in Wales is steeped in history and they have always played a different style of rugby compared to the home nations. They play an attacking style that really stands out and you have to admire that.
“They have always had world class individuals so to help mark the occasion is going to be honour for us.
“I can’t wait for the game, it’s going to be a massive challenge but as an Englishman I’m going there to win.
“Playing down in Cardiff is a big deal and I want us to come away with the victory – that is our target.
“We are all very proud players who don’t want to let ourselves and the Barbarians down.
The Millennium Stadium boasts fond memories for Balshaw as it was the scene of his first start for England in 2001 and he is looking forward to returning to the Welsh capital and ‘one of the greatest stadiums in the world.’
“It’s going to be great going back to the Millennium Stadium,” he added.
“It is widely regarded in rugby circles as one of the greatest stadiums in the world and rightly so.
“The atmosphere there is second to none, the Welsh are such a proud rugby nation who take their rugby very seriously and certainly make themselves known.
“It’s a cracking place to play and on match day the atmosphere will be electric.
“The Barbarians have some of the World’s best players who will be looking to play an attacking style and the Welsh public appreciate that.
Tickets are available now, from £30 for adults, £15 children and £100 for a family of four, for Wales’ exciting clash with the Baa Baas at the Millennium Stadium on 4th June (Kick-off 2.30pm), call: 08442 777 888 or order online at www.wru.co.uk