| 7.2°C Belfast

Uncertain future for Williams


Martyn Williams

Martyn Williams

Martyn Williams

Wales star Martyn Williams is facing up to the possible end of his illustrious international career.

The 35-year-old Cardiff Blues flanker needs just two more Test match appearances to join his fellow former Wales captain Gareth Thomas as only the second Welsh cap centurion.

But Warren Gatland has allowed no room for sentiment in his 28-man squad for this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship, which begins when England arrive at the Millennium Stadium on February 4, with the Wales coach opting for more youthful openside options in the form of Williams' Blues colleague Sam Warburton and Scarlets' highly-rated Josh Turnbull.

Gatland's group includes five uncapped players in Turnbull, Scarlets back Rhys Priestland, front-row forwards Ryan Bevington and Scott Andrews, plus back-row prospect Toby Faletau.

Williams is not the only player to be squeezed out, with the likes of Dan Biggar, Tom James, Aled Brew, Tom Prydie, Huw Bennett and Ian Gough also deemed surplus to requirements.

Gatland additionally has to contend with a lengthy injury list, as absentees include props Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones, centre Tom Shanklin and wing George North, while scrum-half Richie Rees is banned until late March.

But three fit-again Lions - Shane Williams, Leigh Halfpenny and Jamie Roberts - are back, together with experienced Sale Sharks scrum-half Dwayne Peel.

Shane Williams, Wales' record try-scorer, dislocated his shoulder during the defeat against world champions South Africa in November, but made an impressive return for the Ospreys in their Heineken Cup victory over Toulon on Saturday.

Scarlets hooker Matthew Rees has retained the captaincy of a squad that Gatland hopes can make its presence felt in this season's Six Nations.

Wales go into the Six Nations on the back of seven Tests without a win, having lost six and drawn one. Their last victory came against Italy in the final game of last season's tournament.