Owen Williams is hoping to turn back the clock and strike up a winning midfield partnership for Wales with Jonathan Davies five years after he last played with the British & Irish Lions hero.
The Gloucester playmaker admits he has been “thrown in the deep end” by Warren Gatland against Australia for the opening game in the Autumn series at the Principality Stadium on Saturday and says: “I guess it is sink or swim.”
Having held his nerve to kick a match winning conversion for the Cherry & Whites at Bath as an outside-half recently, Williams finds himself making his first start for Wales at inside centre after nine minutes as a blood replacement in the win over Tonga in the summer.
With Gatland veering away from the very direct Jamie Roberts, many are viewing Williams’ inclusion as the dawn of a new era in the Welsh back line. He’s excited at the prospect
“I didn’t think my first start for Wales at home would be at No 12, but I’m happy to play there. I’ve played there quite a few times for my previous club Leicester and I’ve played there for Gloucester once this year, so I’m comfortable in the role,” said Williams
“I’m excited and really looking forward to it. As long as I’m playing for Wales I’m happy to be a No 10 or No 12.
“We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, it’s just having more options going forward. It may be slightly different to what Wales have had in the past few years and it’s nice to get the opportunity.
“At outside half you tend to kick the ball a lot more than you do at centre. The No 10 is the main playmaker, he calls what you run in certain positions.
“He will call the phase off scrum half and then the No 12 organises the forwards outside him so he doesn’t have to worry about that. The No 12 role is being a second set of eyes for his outside half and to feed information into him as to where there is space -you are effectively just another No 10 feeding in information.
“With England Owen Farrell is George Ford’s second set of eyes and another set of hands and it worked for the Lions in the summer. I’m just going to help out Dan Biggar and try to get things moving – you can move teams around if you have two ball players.”
Williams has finally worked his way into the Welsh team after leaving the Scarlets and playing at both Leicester and Gloucester. He had to battle against England outside halves Toby Flood and Freddie Burns at Tigers and played in European Cup and Premiership semi-finals.
He last played with Davies for the Scarlets in the PRO12 semi-final against Ulster in Belfast in 2012. He was the outside half on that night with Davies and Scott Williams in the centre outside him.
Now he will have to help his centre partner surpress the Wallabies’ explosive centre pairing of Tevita Kuridrani and Sam Kerevi, who warmed-up for the game by plundering five tries in last weekend’s big win over Japan in Yokohama.
Williams and Kervi have history, having played against each other in the 2012 Junior World Championships in South Africa when Wales beat Fiji 44-18. Kerevi scored a try for the Fijians playing opposite Kervi at centre and picked up a shoulder injury that kept him out of the next three games.
“They are two big boys and good ball carriers. I’m just going to have to go low and hold onto some legs,” said Williams.
“I remember playing against Kerevi in the Junior World Championships. I passed the ball and got a late shot and did my shoulder, although I can’t remember if it was his shot that got me.”