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Johnny Williams urges patience as Wales build for the future

By Andrew Baldock, PA Rugby Union Correspondent
·3-min read

Johnny Williams has urged Wales fans to keep their patience and he says that Wayne Pivac’s squad will “keep moving forward”.

Wales’ latest defeat – a 24-13 Autumn Nations Cup loss to England at Parc y Scarlets – was their seventh in nine Tests since Pivac succeeded Warren Gatland last year.

It was Wales’ strongest performance of a difficult Nations Cup campaign, though, with try-scoring Scarlets centre Williams the stand-out player on only his second Test match appearance.

Wales end the tournament with a play-off game against Italy next weekend, and then it is just nine weeks to an opening Guinness Six Nations encounter against Ireland.

“I know fans have been going nuts and stuff, but just keep your patience with us. We will keep building,” Williams said.

“We are building for 2023 (World Cup), and there is definitely a good mix of youth and experience. We are just going to get better and better.

Wales v England – Autumn Nations Cup – Parc y Scarlets
Johnny Williams made his second appearance against England (David Davies/PA)

“It was a big improvement (against England). We have made up a lot of ground, and we will keep moving forward.

“We were ready for that physical battle, and I think we were physical ourselves. Of course we are not happy with the scoreline, but we are happy with how we are building.”

Williams’ impressive display came just 10 months after he returned to professional rugby following a testicular cancer diagnosis in 2019 and subsequent chemotherapy treatment.

And it underlined how he could quickly become a mainstay of head coach Pivac’s team, such is his all-round quality.

“I have come a long way in the past 18 months, and I can look back with pride,” Williams added.

“If you had told me at the time that in 18 months I would be starting against England and getting my first try, I wouldn’t have believed you. I am grateful for that.

“Imagine if there had been 80,000 at the Principality Stadium going mad, but it was still surreal knowing that my family were celebrating at home and going mad.”

Wales will end a difficult 2020 as they started it, with a home game against Italy, but the Six Nations looms large and a testing period in February as Ireland, Scotland and England are all on Pivac’s agenda.

Pivac said: “We are learning about the guys that are available, but there were five British and Irish Lions unavailable (against England), and a number of other players that have been at the forefront of the selectors’ minds that are unavailable.

Wales v England – Autumn Nations Cup – Parc y Scarlets
Wayne Pivac wants to finish the tournament on a high note (David Davies/PA)

“Regardless of the team that we put out (against Italy), we want to finish on a high and get a result. We want to keep improving.

“I sound like a broken record, but we are looking at this (Nations Cup) series as an opportunity and to look at the depth of the squad going forward.

“If we look at the World Cup squad from 2019 to 2023, there would be a lot of guys in the age bracket of 33 to 38.

“We know that there will have to be change, and some of that is happening at the moment.

“We just need to keep working very hard as a group and believe in what we are doing. That’s what it takes – more time and hard work.

“Eddie (England head coach Eddie Jones) and I had a good chat before the game. Coaches understand what coaches go through.

“It was a good conversation. They have been building for a long time and they are a great side at the moment. We want to be a great side in 2023.”