In an interview with Rugby World, Shane Williams discusses the 2019 World Cup, injuries and who will win the Six Nations
Shane Williams on England vs Wales
What is your view on the Welsh back-line in particular, especially considering all the injuries. There are no changes at the moment despite George North coming back so, what are your views on that?
Obviously a lot was said about the injuries and the form of players, but I’m positive after the weekend. The game plan was to move the ball and have a good tempo, score tries and get points and that’s exactly what they did.
The style fits the players they have and the no changes, it shows Warren (Gatland) has faith and shows the strength in the team. To be honest the injuries beforehand may have been a blessing in disguise.
Related: Wales Team to Face England
So who do you think will win between England and Wales this weekend?
I think it will be a good game, close, we certainly have the potential to win. I mean England are up there with New Zealand, I think they may be a little too strong but I hope I’m wrong.
I think England have such strength and depth that they are there, whereas Wales are not quite there I don’t think.
What is your opinion on the issue of injuries at the moment? Do you think players are playing more games, or they are bigger and stronger now compared to when you played?
I think it is a combination of factors. I think it is more physical now, which means the collisions at impact are bigger.
The players now are more athletic, sometimes you have a back-rower as quick as the backs. All of them are athletes so the margin of error is so much smaller.
I also think you can predict injuries better now, they’re more conscious of it, where they scan a muscle and see a small tear so rather than play on and aggravate it they just rest them. When I played you just had to get on with it. But I think they look after players more now.
What is your opinion on the new Wales eligibility rules, of players needing 60 caps to be picked for Tests if they are based overseas?
I can see why the WRU have done it, they want to strengthen rugby in the regions and I think it will help there.
But the only downside I can see is Rhys Webb. It was a shambles to be honest, where he signed with Toulon thinking he would still be eligible for Wales and then he found out he wasn’t.
I was very annoyed at that because I think they have to be more transparent with players beforehand.
In terms of the Six Nations who do you think will win the tournament?
England are the favourites but I think whoever wins on the weekend will win the championship. England will win against Ireland, so if they win on Saturday I think they will probably win the Grand Slam.
But if Wales win their confidence will go through the roof.
I genuinely believe the winner on Saturday can win the championship.
Related: England Team to Face Wales
So it’s a little over a year until the World Cup, being held in Japan for the first time. Are you excited or apprehensive at how its going to be received out there?
Well I am a little bit anxious in terms of the stadiums and the infrastructure, but I am fairly convinced they can sort it out. I am excited because it will be unique. It is the first World Cup in Asia and all the people are really excited.
The Japanese people, they do not want to disappoint, so people really need to go out there as Japan is a lovely country.
What is it about Japan that you like the most? Was it the food, the people or something else?
You get used to the food – I must admit I wasn’t the biggest sushi person. Japan really is one of the most alien countries I have ever been to but for me the people really stood out.
They are friendly and accommodating to the extent I wasn’t really used to, because we aren’t the most polite in the UK!
But the people, there is nothing they won’t do, and it will be a unique World Cup because of that.
So will the players get a bit of a culture shock?
It will be a shock if they haven’t been before definitely, because its not what you’re used to, but you quickly fall into their style and just get on with business.
I have been privileged enough to play in many World Cups, but I’m gutted I never got to play in one in Japan, because they really are going to make a festival out of the whole thing.
Japan have a Super Rugby team now, the Sunwolves, and of course they had that victory against South Africa in the World Cup in 2015. Is it noticeable how the game has grown there?
I think it’s no secret its grown, with John Kirwan (who coached Japan from 2007 to 2011) and Eddie Jones and the national side. Actually Eddie, in particular, has been involved in its growth, and in high schools and colleges the game is strong and it’s up there now.
It took a massive step up in the three years I was there, it’s great. There is more money in the infrastructure and there are more better players around.
In terms of the World Cup, who do you think in the northern hemisphere can make the most noise in Japan?
Again, England are the firm favorites, I mean we are still a year out but the leagues domestically have real quality. But all the teams are going in the right direction.
Ireland are always there, Scotland are improving, but I do think in terms of strength and depth, England are strong.
With Rugby World Cup 2019 on the horizon, Shane tackles the best Japan has to offer in his new online series Shane Williams: Big In Japan http://www.facebook.com/shanebiginjapan
To discover the wonders of Japan for yourself: http://visitjapan2019.com/ #EndlessDiscovery