Shane Williams explains his admiration for Paul O'Connell

Wales legend recalls fond memories of his ex-Lions team-mate

Shane Williams, The Toughest Trade

Shane Williams is pictured ahead of AIB’s ‘The Toughest Trade’ airing at 9.30pm on Wednesday the 1st of March on RTÉ2. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Former Wales rugby international Shane Williams has many fond memories of playing with Ireland legend Paul O'Connell on Lions tours.

O'Connell was captain on the 2009 tour and he and Williams struck up a quick rapport.

Speaking to Off The Ball, as he takes part in TV show The Toughest Trade, Williams shared some memories of both the 2005 tour when Brian O'Driscoll was captain as well as O'Connell.

"Both great captains. I spent a lot of time with Paulie on the Lions tour in 2009," he said.

"Straight away when we were in London, we were room-mates and I got to know him quite quickly. He makes a cracking cup of coffee and he's as good as gold. He's a really humble man, nice guy - you wouldn't mess with him on a rugby field that's for sure - but a real good leader.

"What I liked about Paul, he knows when to have the craic and he knows when to switch on. And he's a funny guy off the field. But on the field and leading into games, he's a true captain." 

He also added that O'Connell also had a "huge aura" and "you'd follow this guy anywhere". He added that the Irishman's pre-match speech was "spine-tingling" which was all the more remarkable as the ex-Munster second row wasn't a big chatter generally.

Williams also spoke about his love for his home village Glanamman, which a spell in Japan aside, he has lived in for his entire life.

He also talked about the issue around his small size for a rugby player which he overcame by dispelling any myths through achievement. But it had been a tough question mark to overcome even going back to secondary school.

"I've had it all my life really," he said, "Going from primary school into comprehensive school, I noticed straight away there were lads who were far more mature than I was. And I was quite a good little rugby player at the age of 9-10 and I went to comprehensive and I thought 'Oh, my God, how am I going to compete against these guys?'"

Shane Williams is pictured ahead of AIB’s ‘The Toughest Trade’ airing at 9.30pm on Wednesday the 1st of March on RTÉ2. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Williams also dabbled in gymnastics and football at the time before making his mark in rugby. 

When he made his in the 2000 Six Nations against France, he was only 11 stone and beforehand, the player had worries.

"I looked about 12 but I was 22. Looking back I probably was too small. But I just remember being selected in the squad and thinking 'Oh, my God, am I going to be able to do this? Am I going to be able to compete?' And I remember on the bench thinking 'I hope they don't put me on'. I was petrified. Absolutely petrified.

"But when they put me on the side of the pitch and I stepped over that line, I just felt like a different person. I just wanted to get involved in the game as quickly as I could. I was like a bee flying around, trying to get my hand on the ball."

Later outside of the picture briefly during Steve Hansen's time as head coach of Wales, Williams managed to turn things around to become his nation's record try scorer.