Williams fights for cup spot
Flanker desperate to have World Cup swansong
Last Updated: 19/08/11 1:54pm
Williams: Faces anxious wait
Martyn Williams hopes he can do enough in what is expected to be his final game on home soil to force his way into Wales' World Cup squad.
The Cardiff Blues flanker, 35, will win his 99th cap against Argentina at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday and will do all he can to be involved in a fourth World Cup campaign.
Williams readily accepts the clock is ticking on a 15-year Test career highlighted by two Six Nations Grand Slams, three British and Irish Lions tours and the captaincy of his country, which he regains on Saturday and knows the odds are against him making the squad.
Sam Warburton, Wales' World Cup captain-in-waiting, has nailed down the number seven shirt, while young Ospreys openside Justin Tipuric is viewed by many as a possible selection bolter.
"Look, when I was left out the Six Nations squad last season I thought that was me done and dusted," said Williams.
"But then I was pulled into the World Cup training squad of 45 and I've had a good summer's training and been given the opportunity again.
"Everybody gets frustrated watching and so, yes, I am glad to get a run.
"For a few of us who haven't had a chance, there is the incentive that, with things still up in the air, a good performance will help.
"But when you get to the stage of your career I am at, then even though the competitive edge is still there, you have to be realistic.
"I have trained really hard, I am in the best shape I've ever been, and that makes you want to play even more.
"I think this is the strongest Wales squad in terms of depth I've ever been involved with."
Martyn Williams Quotes of the week
"There is quite a few of us who haven't played all summer and who are going to have to go straight in on Saturday and hit their straps immediately.
"It's not going to be easy, but that's just how it is. You have to deal with it."
Williams has effectively been an automatic selection throughout most of his Wales career, but competition for back-row places is now so intense that the only certainty is uncertainty.
Gatland will announce the World Cup squad on Monday, meaning an anxious weekend for some players, including Williams.
"It won't be nice at all," he added.
"The squad has become really tight. Everyone has helped and encouraged each other, and so to have to drop out will be tough to say the least.
"But they can only take 30 to New Zealand, and that is professional sport. All I would say is that the people who aren't in the 30 need to keep their heads up.
"Unfortunately, there can always be injuries, so they may still be called on."
Williams, whose previous flirtation with international retirement in 2007 lasted just one game, is poised to draw the curtains on his Test career for good this time.
If he does not make Gatland's cut, then that is likely to be it. Should he clinch selection, then the World Cup provides a fitting swansong ahead of him playing one final season with the Blues.
"I think this is the strongest Wales squad in terms of depth I've ever been involved with," he said.
"We've got a great mix of brilliant youngsters and experience, and I really feel we are in a good place. It's just extremely competitive in terms of selection now, particularly in the back row.
"Warren can only pick five or six there, and nine or 10 are going for those spots. It's as difficult as I have known it.
"Sam (Warburton) has been outstanding since he has taken the jersey, so for me it has been about being patient and biding my time.
"I haven't played for Wales since last November, so with this being my last game at the Millennium Stadium, it is exciting.
"But Sam, last week (against England) was one of the best performances from a British number seven that I have ever seen. I have known since he was an academy player how special he is.
"People speak about his physicality, but it's the top few inches with him as well. He is such a grounded bloke, a real class act, on and off the field.
"And we have another real special kid coming through in Justin Tipuric as well, so it will be nice for me to sit in my armchair and watch them!"