Lloyd Williams may be the son of a former dual-code international and British & Irish Lions scrum-half, but it is his Wales squad colleague Mike Phillips who was his boyhood hero.
Blues half-back Williams, whose father Brynmor won three Wales caps and made three Lions appearances in the 70s/early 80s, is currently on his second international training camp in Spala, Poland.
Williams is on a mission to soak up everything he can from the coaches and players around him on the camp, but conversely he says he tries to avoid the subject of rugby when he talks to his dad.
“Mike has been the player I’ve watched in the last eight years or so, he is the one in possession of that starting jersey at the moment and rightly so,” said Williams, speaking as one of three scrum-halves on the current pre–Rugby World Cup training camp, alongside Phillips and Tavis Knoyle (Scarlets).
“It’s just a pleasure for me to be playing alongside him instead of watching him, which I was doing not so long ago.
“But Tavis is going really well too, I would put them both in front of me in the pecking order, but that’s not going to stop me trying.
“We are all working hard to get in the coach’s plans for the summer and for New Zealand.
“I’m picking up advice all the time from the likes of Mike and James Hook and, in particular, Stephen Jones has been a great help to me since the second I arrived in camp.
“When I speak to my dad we actually try to stay off rugby, he knows what it’s like and that there is so much to take in, so he knows to just leave that side of things.”
The 21-year-old former Wales Under-16s, Under-18s and Under-20s international established himself in the Cardiff Blues first team towards the end of last season, after returning from a four-month injury lay-off with a shoulder problem.
He is now relishing the opportunity he has been given and hopes to continue his involvement through the summer RWC warm up matches against England (twice) and Argentina.
“I’ve been given the glimmer of a chance and I know I have to take it with both hands,” he continued.
“The coaches have made it clear that past reputations aren’t going to count too much andthey are judging us on what they see, which is great for us youngsters.
“I have to work hard every day and get as much as I can out of this environment.
“There’s a chink of light at the end of the tunnel where I can see the games against England andArgentinalooming and if I get a chance of a cap that will just be amazing.
“It goes without saying that it is every rugby player’s dream to play for their country and this is a world cup year.
“It’s mind-boggling to think I’m in with a chance, but equally I don’t know any different at the moment.
“That may be something that the youngsters may have over the more experienced players.
“We are all working as hard as each other, but maybe the youngsters are a bit fearless.
“We have nothing to lose and no expectations, we just have to go for it and, with the likes of Scott Williams and Justin Tipuric, that’s what we are doing and we are just lapping it up and enjoying every moment – as anyone would in this situation.”
The uncapped Williams, who featured for the Barbarians against Wales in June, has developed a particularly close relationship in training with 100-cap man Jones and is determined to glean all he can from the Scarlets centurion.
“When you have someone like Stephen, pointing you in the right direction on the field, you can’t go far wrong and he is very good at letting you know precisely when and where he needs that ball in his hands,” said Williams.
“As a scrum-half you need that from your ‘10’ and there’s probably no better communicator than Stephen, so I’m literally learning all the time.
“But the whole experience can also be bewildering at times.
“I’ve looked up to Mike for a long time and coming from the Blues region someone like Martyn Williams is a living legend for me.
“Who wouldn’t relish the chance to be playing with him or someone of Hooky’s talents.
“I’m just trying to drink it all in at the moment.”
Tickets to the Wales vs England Rugby World Cup warm-up match at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday 13 August (kick off 2.30pm) are priced £30 and tickets to the Wales vs Argentina on Saturday 20 August (kick of 2.30pm) are priced at £25 and are on a ‘buy one get one free’ promotion.
Fans can also purchase their tickets for the Millennium Stadium clashes offer online at www.wru.co.uk/tickets or by calling the ticket hotlines 08442 777 888 or 02920 230130 or at local Tesco stores.