The monster Williams feared
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Former Welsh international Shane Williams, perhaps the most elusive player of the professional era, revealed the ‘absolute monster’ which left him ‘petrified’ of an off-field meeting.
Williams was speaking on the ‘Changing Room Chat’ podcast, where he revealed that at times banter with Ireland lock Paul O’Connell went too far on the pitch, leaving the 80kg Williams fearing an off-field encounter with the red-headed giant of Irish rugby.
In his prime, the 111kg O’Connell was one of the most iconic and driven on-field leaders of his generation, and one of the most intimidating figures in the Northern Hemisphere.
“Paul O’Connell was an absolute monster and he always petrified me,” admitted Williams. “There he was, 9ft tall or whatever it was and I was terrified by him. The red hair on him and whenever I came up against him on the field, I just thought he wanted to eat me.”
The pair would have played opposite each other regular in the Six Nations throughout the noughties, and the fleet-footed Swansea boy wasn’t shy out dishing out the verbals when he beats opposing defenders with his magical side-stepping.
“Sometimes on the field, you have some banter that may go too far at times and O’Connell was someone I had some of that banter with. I would make fun of opponents if I ran around them and Paul would not be the only person who would have wanted to get their hands on me.”
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While they had toured together in New Zealand in 2005, it wasn’t until the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 2009 that they finally shared a room together as teammates.
“So I remember going on the 2009 Lions tour thinking the last person I want to share a room with is Paul O’Connell. I thought he hated me, so when I walk into the dressing room and Paul is there I was thinking ‘oh no!’, but you know what, he was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.
“We are good mates to this day. We played a lot of golf together on that trip and he is just a completely different fella off the field. A born winner who will do whatever it takes on the field and that is why he is a leader, but a gentleman off it.
“That’s what a Lions tour is all about. You would get the chance to spend time with players you would never want to spend five seconds with, but it was very different off the field.”