A household name of Welsh rugby, Shane Williams is letting fans get up close and personal in An Evening With…, his new talking tour. Rhys Fisher chats to the sporting legend.
Can you tell us a bit about your current tour and what fans can expect in An Evening with Shane Williams?
Alongside Ieuan [Rhys] and Phyl [Harries] we will be travelling around Wales discussing my rugby career and anything else the audience would like to know. It’s always a very open and honest discussion, and I will always try and answer as honestly as I can.
During the World Cup, we saw you doing a lot of commentary as well as your usual punditry. Is this something that you enjoyed and would look to be doing more if in the future?
I really enjoy being part of the commentary team as I feel I can offer more insight into the game as it’s happening. There is also a little bit more pressure on you as your live, and I get a buzz out of that. I like punditry but feel anyone can give their opinion on the game, but not everyone can commentate as the game is in full flow.
A highlight for a lot of people in the recent World Cup was Japan’s heroics against Scotland and Ireland. As someone who has lived and played rugby in Japan, can you tell us a little bit about the rugby culture there?
The progression of Japanese rugby has come a long way over the last eight years. With the influence of foreign coaches and players, and financial help from corporate businesses, the game has seen the club and international rugby grow massively over this period. And, as a result, the school and university program has also benefited. With the Japanese national side’s World Cup successes in 2015 and 2019, it is only going to grow.
As a followup, do you think the success of their campaign can help them become a real power in international rugby? There has been a lot of talk about potentially introducing them into the Rugby Championship or even the Six Nations. What do you think would be the best way to help them continue to grow?
They will only grow as a result if their recent success. I only hope they are rewarded for their progress and efforts with a place in a worldwide competition.
As a former international winger who relied more on footwork and speed than size and power, you must have particularly enjoyed watching the likes of [Japan’s] Kotaro Matsushima and [South Africa’s] Cheslin Kolbe perform in the World Cup. Do you think there could be a return to the smaller, more elusive wingers following on from their success?
The introduction of the new tackle law will help and allow the likes of Kolbe and Matsushima to excel in the game. These players may be small of stature, but they make up for it in guts and endeavour. It opens the game up massively to fast, elusive runners to create havoc. The 2019 World Cup also proved that you don’t have to be 100kg and benching 200kg to be able to compete at that level. I only wish that I was playing rugby at this time!
Obviously, the World Cup saw the end of Warren Gatland’s reign as Welsh coach. Can you tell us a little bit about your own personal relationship with Gatland?
He was a great coach who not only made Wales a successful nation again but allowed us to play some fantastic rugby. More importantly he instilled pride and confidence into the nation again. He will be a tough act to follow.
And finally, if they were making a film about the life of Shane Williams, who would you choose to play you, and why?
It would have to be someone who’s under five foot six! Maybe Tom Cruise? However, he may be too good-looking! Danny DeVito?
An Evening With Shane Williams, Grand Theatre, Swansea (Wed 22 Jan), Memo Arts Centre, Barry (Thurs 23), Aberystwyth Arts Centre (Fri 24), Theatr Hafren, Newtown (Sat 25); Miners’ Institute, Blackwood (Wed 29), Y Ffwrnes, Llanelli (Thurs 30) and Gwyn Hall, Neath (Fri 31). Tickets: £18-£22. Info: see Buzz listings.