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Page last updated at 13:48 GMT, Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Shane Williams recovery gives Wales Six Nations boost

Shane Williams
Shane Williams has scored 51 tries in 75 Wales internationals

Wing Shane Williams has given Wales coach Warren Gatland a boost ahead of the Six Nations opener with England in Cardiff on 4 February.

Wales' record try-scorer could return for Ospreys in their Heineken Cup game with Toulon on 22 January.

Williams dislocated a shoulder against South Africa in November to put his Six Nations hopes in doubt but his recovery after surgery is ahead of schedule.

"His shoulder is fine, he's just going through the rehab," Holley said.

Williams was originally expected to be out for up to 12 weeks after his shoulder operation, meaning he would miss the England visit and Wales' trip to Murrayfield to play Scotland on 12 February.

But the 33-year-old, who was crowned 2009 International World Player of the Year, is almost a month ahead in his recovery.

The return of Williams, who has scored 51 tries in 75 Wales Tests, is a massive boost to Gatland who is already without teenage Scarlets wing George North.

Their fellow Wales wing Leigh Halfpenny returned to action after his injury for Cardiff Blues over the holiday period, while fly-half Stephen Jones has recovered from his knee problem to start for the Scarlets in their crunch match at home to Leicester.

Our medical department tell me Lee Byrne is available for selection

Ospreys coach Sean Holley

"The best case scenario for us would be Toulon... He's working extremely hard, he's running now, doing a lot of conditioning sessions so it's about getting his lungs right as much as anything, his legs right," Holley said.

"But that's a day-by-day thing now."

The possible availability of Williams is great news for both the Ospreys and Wales, boosting the region's firepower and allowing Williams to prove his match fitness in a high-intensity encounter.

The Liberty Stadium clash with Toulon could prove to be the Pool 3 decider, although that depends how results fall in this weekend's penultimate round of games.

While Toulon host Munster, the Ospreys travel to also-rans London Irish with further good news thanks to the imminent return of Wales full-back Lee Byrne after a thumb fracture.

"Lee's looking good, he trained yesterday [Tuesday]... it's a bit stiff and a bit sore as you'd expect but... our medical department tell me he's available for selection," Holley added.

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