Blog Banner

Martyn Williams - Rugby World Interview

31st August 2008

Cardiff Blues flanker, Martyn Williams believes having a destructive scrum has never been more important than it is this season, with the new ELVs arriving in the northern hemisphere.

The Wales and Lions forward explains in the new edition of Rugby World magazine: “The big one for the back row is the five-metre offside line at the scrum. In the Tri-Nations games, if they had a fairly solid scrum it was impossible to stop people on the gain-line so it should form a good basis for our attacking game, but on the reverse side you’ve got to think of a way to defend it.

“You also don’t have to have the same numbers in the lineout and again you’ve got to figure out how to defend the ball there. South Africa have had a lot of three-man lineouts, but then not many people can match them in that area! There are different things you could do. I’m not a lineout expert – I’ll leave that to the Paul Titos of this world – but it will be interesting to see what sides do. Do you defend three on three or get the numbers in there? “Even with this coming in I don’t think there will be a drastic change.

There have been a lot of tap-and-gos in the southern hemisphere because of the short-arm penalties, but we’ve still got the full penalty so it won’t be that different. The Tri-Nations games have been brilliant to watch and if that can be replicated here, we’ll see quality games in the northern hemisphere.” Williams also revealed that the players had been put through the mill in the run-up to the new campaign adding: “Pre-season is always hard and every year is different. When I started playing there was a lot of long-distance running on the athletics track – 800m, 1,000m. It was 30 to 40 minutes of running. Now we do a lot of power-based stuff – short, sharp, intensity work. There’s no short cut and it’s a lot of hard work, but it’s all preparation for the season.

“We’ve got a few new coaches at the Blues, too. Justin [Burnell, forwards coach] and Gareth [Baber, skills coach] have gone through the system with the academy, and with Rob Howley going to the national set-up full-time, we’ve brought in Billy Millard as backs coach. He’s a typical Aussie, really innovative, and he reminds me of Scott Johnson. He’s just added a few different plans. Our attack was quite good last year so he’s not made wholesale changes, he’s just tinkered a few things. It’s a good blend and we’ve now got an extra coach out on the field compared to last year. It’s beneficial having Gareth just focusing on skills. “There haven’t been a huge lot of changes in the squad – only Aled Brew, Ceri Sweeney and Richard Mustoe have come in – so we won’t have a problem with players trying to gel. Right through the side now in each position we’ve got two easily first-choice players. That’s the way the game is going these days. You can’t play week in, week out so you need two in every position. At fly-half we’ve got three – Ceri, Nicky Robinson and Dai Flanagan, who got us out of our group in Europe last season. “That’s what you need: strength in depth.”

And he also commented on the new skipper at the Arms Park. “Paul Tito has been named Blues captain and I think it’s a really good decision. I was quite surprised when Rushy [Xavier Rush] came back from New Zealand in the summer and said he was stepping down. He’s an absolute top bloke and was made for the job. But he’d been doing it for Auckland and then us, so it was a lot of extra weight on his shoulders and he wanted to take away the burden. Fish [Tito] has done it all before, too, as he’s been captain of Wellington and the Maori. First and foremost, he’s got huge respect off all the boys and that’s the job half done.

*To get a sensational 25% off a subscription to Rugby World, the world’s best-selling rugby magazine then go to