|Six Nations: France v Wales|
|Venue: Stade de France, Paris Date: Friday, 1 February Kick-off: 20:00 GMT|
|Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC One Wales & S4C, BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary.|
Scrum-half Tomos Williams is not the obvious candidate for basketball in the current Wales rugby squad.
Standing at just 5ft 10in, his official height, Williams is among the shortest players, yet growing up it was he who shone on the courts of the Rhondda Valleys – and even played age grade matches for Wales.
He hopes that experience of tackling taller men will stand him in good stead in his Six Nations debut against France in Paris on Friday night.
The Cardiff Blues half-back grew up shooting hoops and was capped by Wales Under-16s.
Alongside this, Williams has played rugby since he was six for Treorchy and chose this sport after becoming involved in the Blues Under-18 academy.
This decision has led to Wales representation at Under-18s and Under-20s before cutting his teeth on the World Sevens stage.
The path to the top hits new heights at the Stade de France after Williams was handed the number nine jersey ahead of Gareth Davies.
“All my family play basketball and I think playing it contributed to my skill-set and ball-handling,” said Williams.
“I played for Wales Under-16 but there almost came a point when I had to decide between that and rugby.
“I had to give up one or the other when the Blues Academy called me in when I was about 18.
“Naturally, basketball has helped my rugby because it develops your handling skills. It’s paid off for me.”
That was in evidence for the Blues with Williams’ outrageous one-handed offload in the Champions Cup win over Lyon which led to a spectacular try for wing Owen Lane.
In basketball, Williams was a point guard, a position which helped develop the verbal and practical skills needed to wear rugby’s number nine jersey.
“The most important thing as a nine is to bring the tempo of a game up, to get on the ball as quick as you can, provide a quick service and kick well,” said Williams.
“Then, hopefully, other things will open up as the game goes on. We will look to pull them about the park a bit because they have named a big pack.”
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones has been impressed by the half-back.
“People says he is small in stature but he has had some big games,” said Jones.
“I am sure he is going to put in a big performance and do his job.”
Williams has also brought an edge to his game – as confirmed by his Blues and Wales team-mate Josh Navidi.
“Tomos is a livewire, a threat off the base as well and hopefully he will do a good job,” said Navidi.
“He’s got flair and is quite aggressive for a scrum-half. It’s good when your number nine is a bit feisty.”
Those sentiments are shared by former Wales captain and fly-half Jonathan Davies.
“I like Tomos because he has a bit of dog about him,” he said.
“On the field he can be a nasty piece of work which you need from your nine.
“He has the quality to step up and has been playing exceptionally well for the Blues.”
Williams insists his fiery behaviour is always under control.
“I try to be aggressive on the pitch but I’m not really off it,” he said.
“As soon as you get on the pitch you get a bit of an edge.
“You have got to find a balance, you don’t want to be too aggressive.
“But it’s good to have that bit of an edge.”
These combative characteristics have seen Williams likened to ex-Wales and Lions scrum-half Mike Phillips, but the man himself says he grew up watching Dwayne Peel and wants to be considered his own man.
The Stade de France cauldron will provide a test for Williams’ temperament in his third Wales start and seventh cap since making his debut against South Africa in Washington DC in June 2018.
Williams will be helped by his Blues team-mate and half-back partner Gareth Anscombe who again starts at 10 ahead of Dan Biggar.
“The Six Nations is a bigger stage than what I’ve played in and France are a strong team,” said Williams.
“There’s going to be a bit of pressure but I’m looking forward to it.
“Warren has been good and relaxed and there hasn’t been much pressure.
“He says to just get out there and treat it as just another game of rugby.”