Williams expects the unexpected from Healey
February 29, 2000
This Saturday's Twickenham encounter between England and Wales throws together two of British rugby's most exciting talents in Shane Williams and Austin Healey and the Welshman is prepared for anything.
"Graham Henry has got confidence in me," Williams said, "and I am looking forward to Twickenham, which will be my career highlight so far. I've never played against Austin Healey but I have watched him a lot, and there is no doubt that he is an extremely good rugby player.
"He is an all-rounder, and I know that he will look to pop up in the most unlikely places," he added. "I've just got to keep my eye on him and hopefully come out on top in the personal battle."
After a brief substitute's appearance against France and then a try-scoring full debut when Wales thumped Italy 47 16, Williams now faces the most searching examination of his fledgling career.
Wales coach Graham Henry could have opted for the more experienced Dafydd James but he has pinned his faith in Williams, and the 23-year-old Neath speedster is determined not to disappoint.
Williams has been hot property in Wales since Henry summoned him to the Test match arena, and for the coach that means fighting a continuing losing battle.
Henry's pleas to give his young star breathing space seems to be falling on deaf ears.
"The hype surrounding Shane has been ridiculous," said Henry. "He'd played one game for Wales and was front page news. "That sort of thing puts a lot of pressure on a young guy like him."
Pressure or not, though, Williams and the entire Welsh team know they must produce probably their best performance since Henry took charge 18 months ago to have any chance against England.
"I've been very impressed with England they are the form horses in this competition," added Henry.
"They have successfully played two different styles in their two matches so far and they are obviously the team to beat, no doubt about that."
Henry has made one change from the Italy game, replacing blindside flanker Geraint Lewis with 27 times-capped Swansea forward Colin Charvis. Lewis drops down to replacement duty.
Keeping him company on the bench will be uncapped Llanelli full-back Matt Cardey, a third New Zealand-born player in Henry's 22, joining Shane Howarth and Brett Sinkinson.
Cardey, who has shown impressive form for the Scarlets and Wales A this term, qualifies through his Gwent-born grandmother.