Rugby World Cup
Williams: Hard work begins here
ESPNscrum Staff
June 5, 2011
Barbarians flanker Martyn Williams laughs at the final whistle, Wales v Barbarians, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, June 4, 2011
Martyn Williams has set his sights on the Rugby World Cup © Getty Images

Martyn Williams is ready for a gruelling summer as he attempts to force his way into the Wales squad for the Rugby World Cup.

The 35-year-old flanker was on Saturday named in Warren Gatland's provisional group for the tournament, having turned out against Wales in the Barbarians' 31-28 victory at the Millennium Stadium.

Gatland will cut 15 players from that squad prior to their departure to New Zealand and Williams is aware of the challenge ahead.

"There is a long summer of training ahead and three pre-World Cup games, so I suppose the slate is clean for everyone," he said. "I am not going to lie - it was a blow missing out on the Six Nations squad because I played well in the autumn [Tests] when I was given the opportunity.

"It's one of those things. You have to take it on the chin and move on. It was more frustrating than disappointing. In all likelihood, they will probably only take one openside to the World Cup. There are so many boys who can play at six and seven, so we will have to see what happens."

The World Cup apart - Williams was part of Wales' last three campaigns in 1999, 2003 and 2007 - he currently stands just two appearances short of joining Gareth Thomas and Stephen Jones as his country's third cap centurion.

"To get 100 caps would be the ultimate for me, but if I don't, I don't. I would have taken one cap," he said. "I look at it as the glass being half-full. I've had a great career, and if I manage to get two more caps, then happy days.

"I think Warren has been spot on in what he has said. He doesn't want to dish out the caps, he wants me to earn them, and I totally agree with him. When you are 35 and you have played the amount of rugby I have, you are not going to be as sharp as what you used to be, but I've been happy all season. My form has been pretty good."

Another player hoping to make the trip to the World Cup is centre Gavin Henson, who made his long-awaited return to action against the Baa Baas. Scott Johnson, the Ospreys boss and Barbarians assistant coach, has called for the centre to be given time to prove himself.

"To be fair he hasn't played a lot. It's not the Gavin of old, I think that's clear to see, but it doesn't mean he can't get back there," he said."He has played limited rugby and it showed in some cases, but he is a quality player and he has a bit of time in his favour, but that's for someone else to worry about now."

Henson, who is without a club after Toulon opted not to offer him a new contract at the end of the season, had hinted through the media he would be interested in a return to the Ospreys, while speculation also threw Cardiff Blues into the mix. Blues chief and Baa Baas head coach Dai Young dismissed any talk of a move for the 2005 British & Irish Lions tourist as "pure speculation".

"I said in the week that I was flabbergasted as no-one knows where the link came from," he said. "It's easy to say it's come from sources, but what does that mean?

"From a coaching perspective you get annoyed when things are written with no foundation. Everyone knows where the Blues are. We have a strong squad but are not looking to bring anyone in. It's is purely media speculation."

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