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Page last updated at 20:48 GMT, Thursday, 12 February 2009

Breakdown battle excites Williams

Date: Saturday, 14 February Kick-off: 1730 GMTVenue: Millennium Stadium
Coverage: Live on BBC ONE, full commentary on BBC Radio Five Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru and the BBC Sport website

Martyn Williams
Williams was at the heart of Wales' opening win against Scotland

Wales flanker Martyn Williams is undaunted by the challenge of being England manager Martin Johnson's marked man when the sides clash on Saturday.

Johnson calls Williams, 33, Wales' key player, and England's selection of Joe Worsley as the opposing open-side is seen as an attempt to nullify his work.

"I'm sure that's just a soundbite from Martin," Williams told BBC Sport Wales.

"The breakdown is about a lot more than the number seven, it's a 15-man effort at the contact area."

Scrum V's Rick O'Shea

Cardiff Blues flanker Williams is preparing to win the 86th cap of an international career that stretches back to 1996.

He made an abortive attempt at retirement after the 2007 World Cup, only to be lured back by coach Warren Gatland, who hopes to nurse the Pontypridd product through to challenge for the William Webb Ellis Trophy in 2011.

"Martyn Williams is a very astute player who seems to be getting better with age and needs to be countered by our whole team," said Johnson, who will hope that the bigger and more abrasive Worsley can rough up his opposite number.

"He is a key player for Wales, he is a very good player.

"I remember him coming on the 2001 Lions tour. He has still got all the skills and mentally he still has the know-how from experience.

"He is a great link man with off-loads and passes. He is very dangerous.

"He was talking about retiring after the 2007 World Cup. I am happy to see him playing well and being successful - just not this Saturday."

Joe Worsley
Worsley will make his first England start since the 2007 World Cup

Williams, who captained Wales to their opening 26-13 Six Nations success against Scotland in the injury absence of Ryan Jones, has played against Worsley many times, but never with the England man in the number seven shirt.

"He's such a great athlete that he can play anywhere across the back row," said Williams.

"He's a quality player who has been there, done it, and was part of the [2003] World Cup-winning squad. He's a tough player, a real warrior.

"[But England have] a lot more to worry about in the Wales team than me.

"The reason we were so good at the breakdown last week was because we were on the front foot.

"Our backs were getting over the gain line and our front five were doing a great job so it makes the back-row's job a lot easier."

Johnson admits to 'underdogs' tag

Of the 117 encounters between the old rivals, Wales have won 52 times while England have been successful 53 times. There have been 12 draws.

Wales are seeking a hat-trick of Six Nations wins against England for the first time and have been installed as 1/5 favourites, but it is a tale of success against the old enemy that is unfamiliar to Williams in his 13-year international career.

"It's probably the first time we've been favourites, maybe we were in 2005," said Williams, who is seen as one of the few players in the Wales team without a stand-out successor.

Being favourites seem strange to me, but a lot of the younger boys have had a lot of success and are wondering what all the fuss is about

Martyn Williams

"But just look at the names on the England team-sheet - they've all been there and done it. They've been criticised all week and have plenty of motivation."

Williams was part of Kevin Bowring's Wales side that crashed to a record 60-26 loss to England at Twickenham during a dire losing streak in 1998.

"I can't sum up everything that has changed since then," said Williams.

"They [England] were so much more professional than us off the field. Now there's more of a level playing field, that's where the main changes have happened.

"Being favourites seem strange to me, but a lot of the younger boys have had a lot of success and are wondering what all the fuss is about international rugby.

"We try to keep reminding them that it's not as easy as it seems at the moment.

"A lot of us know about the bad times and don't want to go back there.

"We've got a great balance in the squad, it's a great place to be at the moment and we hope to keep it that way."

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see also
Williams in injury blow for Wales
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JJ highlights favourites status
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Shane will do right thing - Jones
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England call up Worsley & Tindall
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Halfpenny seeks England revenge
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Ieuan Evans' column
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Lions Watch
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Wales' rugby fixtures
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Wales rugby results archive
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BBC Sport Wales coverage
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