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Page last updated at 08:36 GMT, Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Wales back Martyn Williams to reach 100 caps

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


Sam Warburton loafing in Martyn Williams' boots

Wales insist that Martyn Williams' international career is far from over, despite Sam Warburton taking his place for Saturday's Test against Italy.

"It's important that we look after Martyn as he closes on 100 caps," said Wales coach Warren Gatland.

The open-side flanker, 34, has come in for rare criticism, having started all four of Wales' 2010 Six Nations games.

He led Wales in Saturday's 27-12 loss to Ireland where he became his country's most-capped forward (95).

But he drops out of the match-day 22 altogether for the Millennium Stadium showdown with the Azzurri, Blues team-mate Warburton taking his spot.

Gatland explains Wales selection

"I'm not sure it's so much me replacing him," said five-cap Warburton, 21, who has been backed by pundits as a stronger ball-carrying option than Williams and a more physical presence at the breakdown.

"This game is ideal to experiment a little bit, we can't get higher than fourth in the table - I'm sure that if there was a Grand Slam at stake team selection might be taken a little bit differently.

"Martyn's got plenty of miles left in the engine. We get on well, it's a good relationship.

"It's not so much him teaching me technical bits, it's more just little bits of advice in training, having that friendship, bouncing things off each other.

"He obviously has a wealth of knowledge, it's fantastic to be involved with him and I'm learning all the way.

Wales flanker Martyn Williams
It's absolutely not the end of the road for Martyn

Warren Gatland

"I was over the moon to hear my name in the team announcement. I was already pretty happy at getting a couple of caps in this campaign, this just sets it off.

"Hopefully I can do the jersey justice and put in a good performance on Saturday."

Gatland seemed to suggest that three-time British and Irish Lions tourist Williams remains his first-choice open-side, despite the promise of Warburton.

"I spoke to Martyn and he was very supportive of the decision [to choose Warburton]," Gatland told BBC Sport Wales.

"He's closing in on 100 caps and has had the first four games of the Championship.

"We need to make sure we have some cover in that position in a few tough Test matches moving forward as we build towards the World Cup.

"We think it's healthy, good for the squad, and prudent in this case.

"Sam's a different type of player to Martyn. It's a great opportunity for him to go out against Italy with a very experienced forward pack around him.


"He will get this cap and hopefully one or two opportunities in the summer, then the autumn.

"He will continue to pressure leading up to the World Cup, and if Martyn picks up an injury we've got a real alternative player, we're not throwing a novice in at the deep end with one or two Test matches behind him.

"It's absolutely not the end of the road for Martyn. He's a fantastic player and a great servant for the Blues and for Welsh rugby.

"When Martyn's playing well the team tends to play well."


Why Williams should be dropped - Gwyn Jones

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see also
Prydie set to break Wales record
16 Mar 10 |  Welsh
Williams intends to defy critics
15 Mar 10 |  Welsh
Gatland promises pain for Wales
15 Mar 10 |  Welsh
Wales holding fire on young guns
15 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Warburton told to forget Williams
12 Nov 09 |  Welsh
Young sees open job for Warburton
17 Sep 09 |  Welsh
Six Nations table
10 Aug 06 |  Tables
Wales' rugby fixtures
26 Jun 07 |  Welsh
Wales rugby results archive
15 Oct 03 |  Welsh
Coming up next on Scrum V...
03 Nov 08 |  Welsh
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales

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