Williams ready to resume rivalry with Clerc

(Rugby News Service) Tuesday 11 October 2011
 
Williams ready to resume rivalry with Clerc
Shane Williams expects another tough workout against France

AUCKLAND, 11 Oct. - Shane Williams is not the only wing looking ahead to Saturday's semi-final against France aware it may be his last chance to reach a Rugby World Cup final.

The seemingly ever-youthful Welshman is again expected to line up opposite wily French veteran Vincent Clerc, who has already scored six tries during Les Bleus' march to the last four at RWC 2011. 

It is the latest chapter in a rivalry between the wings, who have menaced international defences for the past decade.

"I have been impressed with him from the start," the 34-year-old said of Clerc. "He is a hard worker and he scores a lot of his tries late on in games. 

"That shows he works hard throughout and he is a player who goes looking for work. He comes off shoulders and is never far from the ball and that is why he scores so many tries."

Williams' two tries at RWC 2011 have taken his tally for Wales to 56, while Clerc now has 30 for France.

Good to watch

Both players were on the scoresheet in the quarter-finals, Williams diving over in the corner for the first of three Wales tries in the 22-10 win over Ireland, while Clerc grabbed France's opening try in their 19-12 victory against England in the second of last Saturday's last-eight matches. 

"He took his try very well against England, but then again, he’s had a good tournament," Williams said.

"He comes off his wing and goes looking for work. He’s the sort of player I enjoy watching, if not playing against too much."

While 30-year-old Clerc may be the principal poacher for France, Williams knows the entire French backline is more than capable of punishing any errors.

Full back Maxime Médard is seen as Clerc's natural heir and he crossed for France's second try at Eden Park last weekend after linking with wing Alexis Palisson. 

"I keep an eye on these players," Williams said. "They are very good players. Médard is a very good footballer, with a good footballing brain. 

French flair

"Throughout the backs, from nine to 15 and on the bench, they epitomise French flair. I have played against (Aurélien) Rougerie enough times, as well. 

"These players are class players and that makes this match on Saturday all the more difficult."

Saturday's match is the first time Wales have been in the last four of a World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1987.

The Dragons lost to New Zealand in Brisbane on that occasion and there is the realisation that for himself and several senior players the match is probably the last chance they will have to take Wales further than they have ever gone before.

"They are a side to be taken seriously as they save their best rugby for the knockout stages," Williams said. 

"They had a good performance against England and the best team won on the day. It is exciting."

RNS ji/aa/pj/mr