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Neil Jenkins eager to see Liam Williams remain in Wales

Published 22/11/2016

Wales star Liam Williams has been linked with Aviva Premiership champions Saracens on a two-year deal
Wales star Liam Williams has been linked with Aviva Premiership champions Saracens on a two-year deal

Neil Jenkins has underlined the desire to keep Wales' top players in the country after it emerged that Liam Williams could join English and European champions Saracens.

According to a report in Wales on Tuesday, Williams has agreed a two-year deal with Saracens from next season.

Saracens have made no comment, but speculation is rife that a swoop for 25-year-old Williams could be announced in January.

Wales assistant coach Jenkins said: "We've said we want to keep our best players in Wales, and Liam is certainly one of those.

"We would love to keep him in Wales ."

Full-back or wing Williams has won 37 caps and is rated by most pundits as a certainty for next summer's British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.

But if he does leave the Scarlets and move to Allianz Park, then his hopes of playing for Wales next season are likely to mean him relying on a wildcard selection.

The Welsh Rugby Union's senior player selection policy currently limits the number of wildcard players to three, affecting players who play outside the country and if they have rejected a contract offer in Wales. It rises to four players next term.

Wildcard selections in Wales' autumn Test squad are Harlequins centre Jamie Roberts, Northampton wing George North and Bath number eight Taulupe Faletau.

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny, meanwhile, could also find himself on the list of so-called captured players next year if he signs a new contract with his current club Toulon, rather than return to Wales.

Jenkins added: "We have said from day one that we want our best players playing in Wales. Leigh comes into that category, and so does Liam.

"We would love Leigh back, and we would love to keep Liam, there is no doubting that.

"If Leigh stays (in Toulon), if Liam goes, it does become an issue, obviously."

The immediate challenge for Williams and Halfpenny is Saturday's autumn series finale against Principality Stadium visitors South Africa.

Despite the Springboks' painful loss of form - they have arrived in Cardiff following a 20-18 loss to Italy last weekend - Wales can reflect on just two wins and a draw from 31 previous starts against them.

Wales also came in for considerable flak after their latest performance - a 33-30 victory over Japan that was secured by substitute Sam Davies' dramatic late drop-goal - with coaches and players in the firing line.

"I don't think ever it is about the blame game," Jenkins said. "We are all in it together - coaches, players, any member of staff - there is no blame game as far as I am concerned.

"The boys are human at the end of the day. They are going to make errors, and we made a couple on Saturday.

"Sometimes in sport, it's a wonderful thing, it is all about how you respond and what is a week later.

"We got across the line on Saturday, we won the game. Everyone has got their view and opinion - we know that, and rightly so - but we have got to get back on the horse and perform to our best to do a job against a very tough opponent."

Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley will name his team on Thursday, with fit-again Faletau on course to be involved in the match-day 23 despite playing just over a half of competitive rugby since injuring his knee more than two months ago.

"I think Toby is just a ridiculously good rugby player," Jenkins added. "Watching him in training, he looks like he hasn't been out (injured). He is a class act, a world-class number eight, one of the best on the planet.

"For us to have him fit and back in the mix and back training is a fantastic addition to our squad."

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