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Premiership Rugby

Northampton lock Williams calls time on Wales career

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

The 32-year-old won a total of 28 caps – his last coming against France in the 2003 Six Nations – but he has now decided to rule himself out of the running for any further appearances in the Welsh jersey in order to concentrate on his Zurich Premiership career.

"It wasn't an easy decision to come to," Williams told Planet Rugby, "but I just felt that the sacrifice needed to play international rugby outweighed the benefits.

"When you feel like that it's time to call it a day as the Welsh jersey deserves players who are fully committed to the cause.

"I found that I was dreading going back to Welsh squad training for the World Cup and it just wouldn't have been right to try and add a few more caps to my name – or for the chance to play in the World Cup.

"It's an exciting time at Northampton at the moment and I want to concentrate all my energies on that this season.

"If I'm honest, I didn't enjoy being involved in the last Six Nations because I felt I was missing out on what was happening at Franklin's Gardens and found I was losing my focus."

The former Neath, Swansea, Cardiff and London Irish forward stresses that he bears no animosity whatsoever to the Welsh national team, despite something of a roller-coaster time in Wales colours and will treasure many precious memories.

"Looking back, it's not my first cap which stands out because I only got into the team due to players being 'rested'," said Williams.

"It was a couple of years later that I reckon I got into the team on my own merits and so that selection meant so much more to me."

Williams' career coincided with some very lean times in Welsh rugby, but he believes there is plenty to be positive about in the future – particularly with the recent switch to regional sides in the Principality.

"It's something they should have done many years ago," he said.

"Yes, there will be a difficult transitional period as the various factions get used to the new sporting landscape but having all their talent concentrated in those five teams should have tremendous benefits for the national team.

"Welsh players will be competing against top sides week-in, week-out in the Celtic League which should equip them well for the rigours of Test rugby."

But, for Williams it is the Zurich Premiership which will be gaining his full attention in the coming months – his presence during the RWC period no doubt a great boost for Northampton Saints who will be stripped of many of their international stars.

"I'm very excited about the coming season," admits Williams. "There's a great feeling about at the moment and having come close in a couple of competitions last year, there's every chance we can improve on that and challenge for some silverware."

By Justin O'Regan

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