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Page last updated at 07:22 GMT, Monday, 15 March 2010

Wales flanker Martyn Williams aims to defy his critics

RBS SIX NATIONS: Wales v Italy
Venue: Millennium Stadium Date: Saturday, 20 March Kick-off: 1430 GMT
Coverage: Watch on BBC One, BBC HD channel, Red Button and BBC Sport website; full commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru; live text commentary on BBC Sport website and mobiles

Wales flanker Martyn Williams
Martyn Williams is now Wales's most-capped forward

Martyn Williams has dismissed critics who claim the veteran flanker's Wales career is coming to an end.

The 34-year-old, a footballer renowned for his skills, has been criticised for not being physical enough for the rigours of modern-day Test rugby.

Williams admits open-side deputy Sam Warburton is giving him the greatest competition for the number seven jersey he has had for many years.

But he said: "Playing to the 2011 World Cup is the aim and I'll keep going."

Wales' double Grand Slam winner has been hailed by All Black star Richie McCaw, currently world rugby's finest flanker, as the New Zealander held the Welshman up as a standard-bearer for European open-sides.

Williams became Wales' most-capped Test forward when he captained Wales to a 27-12 defeat to Triple Crown-chasing Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

But critics have called for the British and Irish Lions star to go from skipper to subs bench inside a week for Saturday's final and meaningless Six Nations clash when Italy visit Cardiff.

"Sam is pushing me as hard as anyone has and he is going to be a world-class player," said Williams.

Why Williams should be dropped for Italy clash - Jones

"The flak is always the case especially when you start losing, it is a fine line.

"Criticism is part and parcel of playing international rugby. It is never going to be a smooth ride so you have to take it on the chin and keep going as best you can.

"It is easy to throw your toys out of the pram days after a defeat when emotions are running high, but I think once the dust has settled and everybody has reassessed things we'll be in a better place."

The Cardiff Blues player is a stranger to criticism as he has been one of coach Warren Gatland's most important Wales players since the New Zealander took over in 2008.

One of Gatland's first jobs was to persuade Williams to come out of international retirement and that proved a masterstroke as he helped himself and his country to a second Grand Slam in four years in 2008.

Then Gatland outlined his plans to wrap the veteran forward in cotton wool to ensure he is able to play on until the 2011 World Cup.

The 95-capped forward, who made his Wales debut against the Barbarians way back in 1996, is closing in on becoming just the second Welshman to win 100 Test caps and join an elite club of centurion rugby players.

He is renowned for his silky footballing skills and handling ability, but the physical and confrontational demands of 21st century rugby means his unique and attractive style of open-side play is not as effective as it once was.

Warburton, who has impressed when he stood in for Williams for the Blues this season, is a more physical open-side and former Wales flanker Gwyn Jones has urged Gatland to choose the 21-year-old rookie over Williams for Wales' match with Italy.


"The game is getting more mechanical and the opportunities for Martyn to have an influence on the game seem to be getting less," Jones told BBC Wales' Scrum V show.

"Because the rest of the back row and the pack are struggling in the physical confrontations, his responsibility to be more confrontational and to win the contact areas are greater again.

"And you don't pick Martyn to win contact areas, you pick him for extra bits of skill that has got. It may be time to try Warburton at seven.

"Martyn still is a wonderful player but the way the game is being played and the way we are playing at the moment, perhaps we need a more physical seven.

"You would learn a lot more by playing Warburton than continuing with Martyn for this game."

* Catch the announcement of Wales' team to play Italy on the BBC Sport Wales website and on BBC Radio Wales on Tuesday at 1300 GMT

Wales' Six Nations squad:

Backs: Leigh Halfpenny, Tom James, Richard Rees, Jamie Roberts, Tom Shanklin (all Cardiff Blues) Dan Biggar, Andrew Bishop, Lee Byrne, James Hook, Kristian Phillips, Tom Prydie, Shane Williams (all Ospreys), Jonathan Davies, Stephen Jones (all Scarlets), Dwayne Peel (Sale Sharks).

Forwards: Ken Owens (Scarlets), Bradley Davies, Gethin Jenkins, Sam Warburton, Martyn Williams (all Cardiff Blues), Huw Bennett, Ian Gough, Paul James, Adam Jones, Ryan Jones, Jonathan Thomas (all Ospreys), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Luke Charteris, Dan Lydiate (both Newport Gwent Dragons), Eifion Lewis-Roberts (Sale Sharks), Rhys Gill (Saracens), Gareth Delve (Gloucester).

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see also
Prydie set to break Wales record
16 Mar 10 |  Welsh
Wales ponder discipline 'stance'
13 Mar 10 |  Welsh
France 46-20 Italy
14 Mar 10 |  Rugby Union
Ireland 27-12 Wales
13 Mar 10 |  Rugby Union
Wales 20-26 France
26 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Williams to set new Wales record
25 Feb 09 |  Welsh
Gatland warns Wales back-row pair
23 Feb 10 |  Welsh
Wales 31-24 Scotland
13 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
England 30-17 Wales
06 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
McCaw hails Wales rival Williams
05 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
Six Nations table
10 Aug 06 |  Tables

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