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Gatland wants Williams for 2011

By Peter Shuttleworth

Martyn Williams
Martyn Williams is set to embark on his third Lions tour this summer

Warren Gatland is considering managing Martyn Williams's game-time with club and country so the Blues flanker can star for Wales at the 2011 World Cup.

The Wales coach persuaded Williams to come out of an international retirement before last season's Grand Slam.

Gatland now wants the influential 33-year-old to be the cornerstone of his forward pack at the next World Cup.

"We've sat down with Martyn to plan out the next few years to get him through to the next World Cup," said Gatland.

The Lions and Cardiff Blues openside is key to Wales' dynamic, running rugby style of play and is considerably the best Welsh player in his position.

The 81-times capped international is the most experienced man in Gatland's 28-man 2009 Six Nations squad and is drawing up a blueprint to extend Williams' international career.

"Martyn is getting on a little bit now," acknowledged Wales coach Gatland.

"He'll be 36 years old at the next World Cup so to get him through it would mean potentially limiting the number of internationals and Blues games he plays."

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Welsh rugby's charter, an agreement between the Welsh Rugby Union and its four professional regions, gives a game limit of 32 matches to its international players.

Williams, who has captained his country five times, quit international rugby after Wales' humiliating early exit from the 2007 World Cup.

He made his Wales debut against the Barbarians in 1996, scoring 14 international tries and was persuaded out of retirement when Gatland replaced Gareth Jenkins as Wales coach.

And Williams, who has 18 months left on his Blues contract, was rewarded with his second Grand Slam at last year's Six Nations after being honoured as Player of the Tournament following Wales' clean sweep in 2005.

Gatland understands the physical nature and demands of top-class rugby would make it difficult for an aging player like Williams, who suffers from a reoccurring shoulder problem.

But the New Zealander knows of his unique importance to the Wales team and BBC Wales Sport understands that Gatland and the region have already discussed the proposal and the Blues welcome Gatland's idea.

"He is important for us," said the Wales coach.

"We'd like to see some other quality open-side flankers come through the system but sometimes there is limited opportunities for players.

"There are too many foreigners playing the game so it is difficult to develop the depth.

"Out of the 12 loose-forwards at the regions playing on any weekend, eight can be foreigners so with that in mind it is quite difficult to develop world class players in every position."



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see also
Six Nations guide 2009
28 Jan 09 |  Rugby Union
Wales will get better - Gatland
28 Jan 09 |  Welsh
Wales told to 'accept pressure'
28 Jan 09 |  Welsh
Wales confident of Jones fitness
27 Jan 09 |  Welsh
Sale's Peel out to impress Wales
26 Jan 09 |  Welsh
Wales omit Peel for Six Nations
19 Jan 09 |  Welsh
Williams makes shock Wales return
14 Jan 08 |  Welsh
Flanker Williams ends Wales duty
01 Oct 07 |  Welsh
2011 rugby world cup fixtures
29 Jan 09 |  Fixtures
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales


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