Rugby World Cup sensation Shane Williams has admitted he feared his international career was over the last time he played for Wales in Cardiff. The pint-sized wing returns more than two years since his last appearance at the Millennium Stadium in the rearranged Lloyds TSB Six Nations fixture against Ireland in October 2001.
It was to be a hugely frustrating time for Williams who had burst onto the scene as a baby-faced 22-year-old with lightning pace and could turn direction on a six-pence.
Williams scored eleven tries in his first eleven appearances but saw his career stutter to a standstill amid injuries and concern that he was too small for modern Test rugby.
"I have changed a lot since then. I have learned from the experience of being in and then out of the limelight and grown up a lot," said Williams. "After that (Ireland) game I really began to get the feeling that I didn't have much of a future as a Wales wing.
"It was a really frustrating period because things were not going well for me, I was having a lot of problems with my hamstring and missed a lot of rugby.
"Even after playing the friendly against Romania last summer, I never got over that feeling until right before the Rugby World Cup. In Australia, my confidence was well down. I wasn't even involved in the training because I wasn't involved in any of the pool games.
"It was a long four weeks so when I finally got the chance against the All Blacks I knew I had to grab it with both hands and show Steve (Hansen) he was wrong not to pick me. I wanted to show what I could do and prove he had made a mistake. Luckily enough I got that chance."
The performances against New Zealand and then England made Williams and Wales a crowd favourite at the Rugby World Cup and has given rise to a new wave of genuine optimism in the Valleys as they head into tomorrow's RBS Six Nations opener against Scotland.
"The fact that the All Blacks scored so early, ninety seconds, actually became a positive thing," added Williams. "We knew if we didn't pull together things could get embarrassing. Previously, I think we've been intimidated by sides like New Zealand but this time there was anger, at ourselves.
"Then we really started to play some rugby and showed we could compete with anyone. We really felt we could win. I remember thinking as the game went on, it was the Rugby World Cup, we were beating the All Blacks and there was no where else in the world I wanted to be more than on that field."
Since returning home to a welcome normally reserved for Rugby World Cup winners rather than losing quarter-finalists, Williams and Wales have gone back to the training ground to ensure Australia does not prove to be another false dawn as a proud rugby nation once again expects.
"Yes there's a lot more expectation but that is a great thing, we can all definately feel the buzz in Wales again and everyone is looking forward to the Scotland game," he said. "I have learned that you can't beat players or create something out of nothing every time you get the ball. I hope people aren't expecting that.
"After the Rugby World Cup experience there's a belief in the squad that our heads will never go down if things go wrong and that's a feeling we will taken into the RBS Six Nations."
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All roads lead to Cardiff on Sunday for the SSE SWALEC Finals Day at the Millennium Stadium. Cambrian Welfare tackle Ystradgynlais in the Bowl final, Ystrad Rhondda play Newcastle Emlyn in the Plate final while defending champions Pontypridd face Bridgend in the Cup final.
WRU Chief Executive Roger Lewis, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism Ken Skates and WRU Chairman Gareth Davies earlier this week launched a new competition in conjunction with the WRU unveiling its archive room.
Welsh players and management joined Deputy Minister for Sport Ken Skates at the Pierhead Building, Cardiff Bay earlier this week to reveal the Union's pioneering school-club hub initiative has been so successful the project will now almost double the scale of the original project.
The Scarlets, Newport Gwent Dragons, Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys look ahead to Judgement Day III which sees the Blues take on the Ospreys (2.30) and the Dragons tackle the Scarlets (4.45pm) at the Millennium Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
Ystradgynlais and Ynysddu played out a titanic struggle at Taffs Well in the SSE SWALEC Bowl semi-final. At the end of the game neither team could be separated after a 15-15 stalemate but Ystradgynlais go through on try count.
Blues strike first in JD III battle - Newport Gwent Dragons lock Andrew Coombs, WRU referee Dylan Llyr Jones and Cardiff Blues hooker Matthew Rees decide dressing room allocations for Judgement Day III
Wales Under 18 captain Calum Haggett has received a conditional offer to read Biomedical Science at St Anne's College, Oxford. WRU chairman Gareth Davies went to meet Calum and Coleg y Cymoedd Principal Judith Evans to wish him luck in his exams and pass on some of his personal experience.