Liam Williams: Saracens back tipped to answer Wales' Six Nations full-back call


‘The words not coming out scares me’ – Liam Williams on his stammer

When one British and Irish Lions Test full-back is injured, Wales are lucky another one can slot right in.

Leigh Halfpenny looks set to miss the Six Nations opener against France on 1 February, after being ruled out for a further three to five weeks with a concussion injury he suffered on 10 November.

Halfpenny was the 2013 Lions man of the series in Australia, but step forward Liam Williams – the 2017 Lions full-back in three Tests against New Zealand, and now favourite to wear the Wales 15 jersey in Paris.

There are other options for head coach Warren Gatland in Jonah Holmes, Hallam Amos and Gareth Anscombe, but Williams is the man in possession after starting at full-back against South Africa – the last of Wales’ four autumn Test victories.

That came just a week after playing on the wing and scoring two tries against Tonga on his 50th cap.

“I’ll play anywhere, so what will be will be,” said the 27-year-old.

“I don’t pick teams so we’ll have to wait and see. There’s a lot of competition [in the back three] and that’s healthy leading up to the World Cup.

“The autumn internationals success put us in good stead for the Six Nations.”

Modesty from the man himself, but Saracens club coach Mark McCall believes he will be the perfect replacement, even if McCall plays Williams primarily on the wing with Alex Goode at full-back.

“Any game Liam has played for us over the last 18 months at full-back he has been good – great actually,” said McCall.

“He has got Test experience there and would be a pretty good replacement for Leigh if he can’t make it.

“Liam is one of the most committed and competitive players I have ever come across, alongside some world-class skills, especially in the air.”

Leigh Halfpenny (right) replaced Liam Williams at Scarlets in the summer of 2017

Williams is more concerned with Halfpenny’s health and bid to return to full form and fitness.

“I have spoken to him and he says his head is not quite ready yet,” said Williams.

“There’s nothing worse than having concussion and trying to run and you’ve got headaches.

“You only get one head and you need to look after it. It’s tough, but Leigh needs to make sure he’s right and ready to play again.”

Williams has had his own injury concerns, returning to Saracens after the autumn internationals and promptly tearing his hamstring in his first week back.

He missed the next six weeks and began his comeback with a tentative 53-minute return in the English Premiership defeat by Sale last Friday.

This setback came after a persistent groin injury curtailed his involvement in his first Saracens season, when the side were crowned English champions.

“To come back from four weeks with Wales and and not even play a game was so frustrating but that’s just the way it goes,” said Williams.

“They’ve handled me well over the last couple of years and I just want to stay fit.”

Hunting for more Saracens silverware

Williams demonstrated his ability with two hat-tricks earlier in the season and McCall hopes to see more of him on the pitch.

Liam Williams in action for Saracens against Ospreys in January 2018

“Liam is a class player but it has been stop-start for him and he has not strung five or six performances together for us,” said McCall.

“Fingers crossed he can get through three games for us and then goes through the Six Nations and we get him for the end of the season.”

Williams will continue his return in the Champions Cup game at Lyon on Sunday. Saracens are unbeaten in Europe so far this season with four wins from four and hopes of regaining the title they won in 2016 and 2017.

“The reason I came here was to win trophies,” said Williams.

“Things did not go right [in Europe] last year and we are trying to put that right this season.

“We set ourselves high standards and we are not quite there this season and there is still more to come.”

Liam Williams was sidelined through injury as Saracens celebrated their third Premiership title win in four years in May 2018

Williams has proved a hit with the Saracens squad.

“Liam has been a breath of fresh air since he has been here,” said McCall.

“He has been magnificent and is an unbelievably popular member of the group and you know what you are going to get from him every week – total commitment and competiveness.”

As the sole Welshman at Sarries, playing alongside almost half the England Test side, with Maro Itoje, Jamie George, Billy Vunipola, Mako Vunipola and Owen Farrell among his team-mates, he has also been subjected to what he describes as “some terrible banter”.

“They say stuff and it goes in one ear and out the other,” he said.

“I have not played against them yet for Wales since I have been here because I was injured in the last Six Nations.

“Hopefully I can stay fit and play against them this year.”

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