Wales give Williams wildcard warning

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 19:31
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NEWS: Liam Williams has been told his prospects of playing for Wales next season could depend on a wildcard selection if he joins English Premiership champions Saracens.

There have been reports in the Welsh press that the 37 times-capped fullback or wing has agreed to a two-year deal with Saracens, although the London club have not made any comment.

Now there is speculation that the 25-year-old Williams could move to Saracens in January.

Wales want the majority of their internationals to play their club rugby for one of the country's professional regional sides.

But the Welsh Rugby Union do have four wildcard places available to players featuring in club rugby outside of Wales in the 2017/18 season.

"We've said we want to keep our best players in Wales, and Liam is certainly one of those," said Wales assistant coach Neil Jenkins on Tuesday. 

"We would love to keep him in Wales." 

Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny could also find himself on a list of so-called 'captured players' next year if he signs a new contract to stay in France with current club Toulon, rather than return to Wales.

"We have said from day one that we want our best players playing in Wales," said Jenkins. "Leigh comes into that category, and so does Liam.

"We would love Leigh back, and we would love to keep Liam, there is no doubting that."

"If Leigh stays [in Toulon], if Liam goes, it does become an issue, obviously, but at some point in time it is an opportunity for other players as well."

Wales complete their 2016 international programme against a struggling South Africa side in Cardiff on Saturday.

South Africa have lost seven of 11 Tests this year, equalling their record for the most defeats in a season since returning to international rugby in 1992 from apartheid-induced isolation.

They hit a new low with a maiden defeat by Italy in Florence last weekend, going down 18-20.

But Wales too came in for plenty of criticism after a lacklustre 33-30 win over Japan, where only replacement Sam Davies's drop goal with seconds to spare secured an uninspiring victory.

Wales have just two wins and a draw from 31 previous Tests against the Springboks.

"I don't think ever it is about the blame game," Jenkins said. "We are all in it together - coaches, players, any member of staff - there is no blame game as far as I am concerned.

"The boys are human at the end of the day. They are going to make errors, and we made a couple on Saturday."

Jenkins added: "Sometimes in sport, it's a wonderful thing, it is all about how you respond.

"We got across the line on Saturday, we won the game. Everyone has got their view and opinion - we know that, and rightly so - but we have got to get back on the horse and perform to our best to do a job against a very tough opponent."

Agence France-Presse