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Page last updated at 11:44 GMT, Friday, 21 January 2011

Wales boss Warren Gatland ponders Shane selection

Shane Williams
Shane Williams shows his attacking style before being injured against South Africa in November, 2010

Shane Williams could be in Wales' starting Six Nations team - even if the wing does not play in Ospreys' Heineken Cup clash with Toulon on Saturday.

Warren Gatland insists the Welsh record try-scorer's experience will count in his favour when the coach picks his team to host England on 4 February.

Williams has been out since shoulder surgery in November but returns to the Ospreys bench to face Toulon.

"He looks good," said Gatland. "That's something we are going to weigh up."

The 33-year-old was injured in a heavy tackle in Wales' autumn Test defeat by world champions South Africa in November.

We want our players to take a few risks to play what's in front of them, to be a bit more expansive and to express themselves

Wales boss Warren Gatland

But he is set to make his return from the replacements bench when the Ospreys host French side Toulon in their final - and academic - Heineken Cup pool match at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.

The Ospreys cannot qualify for the knock-out stages of Europe's top club competition regardless of Saturday's result while Toulon are already through to the quarter-finals.

If Williams does not get much action on Saturday, Gatland could opt to release him for the Ospreys' LV= Cup clash with Cardiff Blues a week later at Cardiff City Stadium to get some vital match-fitness.

But Gatland says he would have no qualms about picking the 75-times capped double Grand Slam winner even if Williams has competition from match-fit rivals like Morgan Stoddart of the Scarlets and Dragons wing Aled Brew.

"Ideally you'd like him to play some rugby," said Gatland.

"But given Shane's experience - he's been around for a while, he's been working pretty hard on his fitness and his speed and that's been a priority for him.

"We feel that as a player who's getting on a little bit at the moment we are not worried about him doing too much running, we're not worried about him doing too much weights.

"But if he's sharp and fast that gives him a lot of confidence and there have probably been a couple of times and a couple of seasons when he hasn't played as well or looked as sharp.

"But he looks good at the moment and that's something we are going to have to weigh up.

"It's great having Leigh Halfpenny back in the fold and someone like Morgan Stoddart's been playing really well in the last few weeks for the Scarlets too."

Wales coach Gatland, whose side welcome England in their Six Nations opener in Cardiff on Friday, 4 February, wants his side to take risks and express themselves during the Championship.

He said: "I think the message for this Six Nations is that we want to get out there and really play some rugby.

Byrne looks for Wales momentum

"And there's been criticism in the past because of the amount of kicking and stuff and I can tell you now that we want the players to make those decisions on the field.

"If they're in their 22 and they feel they've got an overlap and it's on, move the ball, run it, look for off-loads, keep the ball alive if there's an opportunity.

"Again there are times when you've got be smart and you're under pressure - you've got to kick the ball and play some territory - we all know that.

"But I can tell you from a coaching point of view we try and encourage our players.

"We want our players to take a few risks to play what's in front of them, to be a bit more expansive and to express themselves."

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see also
Ospreys 29-17 Toulon
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Gatland eyes stand-ins for Jones
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Gatland sees Euro flop benefits
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Williams recovery boost for Wales
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England suffer Moody injury blow
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Wales suffer Shanklin injury blow
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Wales rugby results archive
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BBC Sport Wales coverage
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