The Exit Lounge: Martyn Williams
Beyond singing at a karaoke night in a busy pub, your author has not had many brushes with fame. However, one night a decade or so ago I ended up spending a couple of hours with Martyn Williams during a night out - occasioned by me being out with a mate who knew him and bumping into him in a private room in a Cardiff club. One of the lovely things about rugby in Wales is that this is not that unusual an occurence.
I only mention this event as it gave me a chance to get close to the 99-cap man. The most remarkable thing about him is how unremarkable he looks and behaves. Quietly spoken, humble, not particularly big, receding copper hairline, conservatively dressed - if you didn't know who he was you would never guess he was a genuine rugby great. Those of us in the know are well aware that this is exactly what he is.
Martyn reaffirmed your love of the game every time you saw him play; canny at the breakdown, comfortable in the loose, vision of a fly-half, bravery of the hardest of forwards, he could even kick - the type of player we all wished we could be. It is testament to him that one of the few reasons I would criticise Ian McGeechan is for his selection of David Wallace ahead of Williams on the 2009 Lions tour of South Africa. When fit, the Welshman was the best seven in Britain & Ireland, there was no debate.
Ever humble, Williams said in an interview with Paul Rees today "When I look at the likes of Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric contesting the seven jersey, I am glad I started when I did: I am not sure I would win a cap now." I'm sure he would, and so is everyone else that saw him perform.
This greatness is about to retire, and with his swansong for Cardiff Blues denied by injury Wales have a chance to do the right thing and select him for the Barbarians match later in the summer, which would allow the Wales fans to say a farewell and him to reach 100 caps.
If anyone deserves such an indulgence it is Williams; the fact he does not expect it and would not seek it is all the more reason to give it to him.
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