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Williams as hungry as ever for success ahead of 250th Cardiff appearance

First Team News | 10th December 2022

When Lloyd Williams leads Cardiff out at the Arms Park this evening, he will become only the second player since 2003 to reach 250 appearances for the club.

Only Taufa’ao Filise has worn the Blue and Black jersey more times in the modern era, with the scrum half having already over-taken club greats such as Steve Ford, Martyn Williams, PL Jones, Carl Smith and Simon Hill.

Having followed in the footsteps of father Brynmor in representing the club, Cardiff Arms Park holds a special place in the Williams family, with Lloyd’s brother Tom also a former Blue and Black.

And while Williams admits his latest landmark is one he will be able to reflect on with pride, his focus for now is entirely on the task at hand against Brive: “It will definitely be a special moment for myself and my family, but I think these landmarks are something that I will mostly be able to reflect on with proudness when my career ultimately comes to an end. 

“For now I’m still focused on how to achieve success and creating future memories, as opposed to counting my appearances," said the academy product.

“But by no means am I underestimating the achievement itself - when you’re in the company of club legends like Fa’ao Filise, Gethin Jenkins and TR Thomas, I’m very proud to be amongst those names. They’re great players and great people.

“It will be a proud and exciting occasion for my parents and my family, whereas my focus is on trying to win a game of rugby at the moment.

“While I’m still playing, they are landmarks that happen to fall on important games of rugby that I’m desperate to win and evenings where I want to do my best to help my team-mates.

“This is a must-win game for us if we are to kick off our European campaign on a high and that’s been my priority in the build-up to the game.

“European competition is very important to Cardiff as a club and region, and this weekend is not different. I was in-and-around the squad in 2010 and obviously involved in Bilbao.

“Whenever you win silverware, there’s a great buzz around the place and that’s not just on the field, but also in the offices and everyone associated with the club thrives off those successes.

“These competitions certainly have huge value, and a shot at silverware is what you crave as a player and as a squad.

“Despite looking at the league and seeing Brive on the bottom, it would be dangerous to underestimate them and draw conclusions based on that.

“They’ve got very good individuals and pose a threat. But hopefully it will be a good match. It’s a game that we’re very much looking forward to, I’m sure they’ll be the same and hopefully that will make for a spectacle.”

Williams made his Cardiff debut as a fresh-faced 21 year old against Leinster, but despite team-mates coming and going, the scrum half has been a nucleus of the Blue and Blacks’ squad during his time with the club, both on and off the field.

He’s been a consistently important player for the capital club, grown as a leader over the years, while also picking up 32 caps and three Six Nations titles on the international stage.

And looking back at his career, there have been highlights along the way for Williams - including some of the club’s greatest days and the ones that stick out for more personal reasons.

Williams said: “It certainly doesn’t feel like 12 years have passed - on the whole it’s flown by.

“I obviously remember Bilbao pretty vividly, which is natural due to the occasion. You also look at the win over Toulon at home, although I probably couldn’t piece most of the game together beyond the final two minutes!

“There’s been a couple of big games on a personal level where they helped me get back on track after a period where things weren’t going well. Those matches are important and personal for every player. Those helped me and stick out.

“But I’ve also formed a lot of good relationships with players, coaches and everyone within the club. I feel very fortunate to have played here for 12 years, and hopefully this weekend will be another game that sticks in the memory.

“Matches against Racing Metro and London Irish in Europe stand-out to me earlier in my career. We beat them both home and away, and it was the first year for me breaking on the scene, so to speak.

“We put in some great performances as a team, winning out in Paris on the opening weekend and backing that up with a big win over London Irish at home. They propelled us on for the rest of the season, from a European point of view, and we made it into the knockouts that season. They were big for me as it was an opportunity to put some big performances in for the club early in my career.

“That win over Ospreys at Judgement Day in 2017 is up there for me. I hadn’t beaten them up to that point, because they went through a period where they were significantly stronger than us, but that match turned the tide in that fixture for years to come. 

“We’ve not always been victorious, but it’s felt like we’ve been a lot more competitive after that, which is always good.

“There was an incident against Montpellier, where I got sent off and felt like I’d let the team down. But the first game back was also in Europe, against Sale at home in the snow. I had a really good game personally, and felt like I owed that to the team and the club, and those are the type of games and moments that really stick out.

“Playing alongside my brother in the Cardiff jersey has been special, particularly when we’ve celebrated wins together. Running out in front of our parents was a big dream for me and Tom. It was always important for me to see him playing well too.

“There are memories at the Arms Park, like the semi-final against Pau, and others which were special like my first time captaining the club in a good victory over Montpellier in 2015.

“They’re landmark moments that will stick out in the years to come on a personal level, but also important to me has been seeing good friends producing big performances, like Gareth Anscombe slotting the winner in Bilbao, Cuthy and Ellis doing what they do best for us amongst others.

“250 games sounds like a lot, and definitely remember is the people you come across and the great friends you make along the way. That’s the great thing about sport.

“If I’m completely honest, I would’ve loved to have more success during that time in terms of the trophy cabinet. 

“That’s something I still strive for and will continue to strive for while I’m playing here. Bilbao was amazing, and has only made me more hungry to achieve further success with this club. It’s why you play the game.

“We’ve had periods where we’ve shown we can compete against the best teams, and who’s to say that success isn’t around the corner?”

When the scrum half came through the ranks, he was surrounded by a host of experienced players who have gone down amongst the club’s greatest in recent years, and Williams reveals that their influence has been key for him, and others, to reach this point in their careers.

“Paul Tito was hugely influential to me, and I probably speak on behalf of a lot of youngsters who came through the system at that time,” explained the 33 year old. 

“He set a great benchmark in terms of what a good leader looked like - always delivering on the field but was always in the lads’ camp on and off the field. He was supportive of us as youngsters, always had good advice for us and was always happy to lend his experience, leadership and support, which is key at that stage of your development.

“Being around the likes of Casey Laulala and Ben Blair was always great. It’s no coincidence that Leigh Halfpenny came on the scene during that time to become one of the greatest full backs Wales have ever had. The same goes when you look at Martyn Williams and Sam Warburton. 

“When you’ve got players like that to learn from, it brings on the younger lads because you try to imitate their behaviours, traits and levels - and even if you fall slightly short you’ve not done too bad!

“Gethin Jenkins was a flag-bearer for setting standards in every aspect of the club. The impact he had when he came back from Toulon, both as a team and individuals, can’t be overlooked. You need people like that in the team to drive standards. Geth was a great leader in the sense that he’d demand the standards of everything was high.”

Another team-mate that has been important for the scrum half was Owen Williams, who suffered a life-changing injury in

“I’m probably the same player but my outlook on rugby and life did change. When a life-changing incident happens to a close friend of yours, it does put a lot of things into perspective. 

“It was an incident that had a big affect on a lot of us who were close with Owen, that’s inevitable.

“It put a lot of things into perspective, and probably drove me on to make the most of opportunities and do as well as I could.”

Despite celebrating his 33rd birthday during the club’s recent tour to South Africa, the scrum half is showing no signs of slowing down and continues to be a crucial and consistent figure in the Cardiff squad.

Having been named Player of the Match in the recent 35-0 win over Sharks in Durban, Williams says that his preparation work away from the rugby action is crucial for him to continue to compete at the highest level.

The Welsh international added: “The body still feels really good. I’ve had to adapt myself along the way, especially as a scrum half you bend down around 50 times a day to pass the ball, so I’ve had to strengthen that area!

“But it’s not quite like when you were 18 years old, bouncing into training and being good to go. There’s a bit more preparations that goes into it, but I enjoy that side of it.

“The foundations of what helps me reach good form is being fit. When I’m fit, the confidence comes along with that.

“When I was coming onto the scene as a youngster, I probably wasn’t completely aware of the tactical nouse and the intricate parts of the game. The game was going through something of a transitional period.

“But over the last five or six years, I’ve got to grips with that side of the game and have gained an understanding of what a good game looks like for me.

“If I’m looking after myself and feeling physically well, I feel that gives me a good platform to work on the rest of my game and give myself a chance to play well.

“With that, I’m in good company in the scrum half position at Cardiff, which certainly spurs me on.  Competing and training with someone like Tomos, and the quality he brings, isn’t something to be ignored.

“It forces me to raise my standards in order to compete, and that’s something I’m grateful for.”

This interview was produced for Cardiff Rugby's official matchday programme, which is available to download for free NOW!