London – Wales wing Shane Williams believes top European nations are closing the gap on the southern hemisphere even though his side were the only country to defeat one of the ‘big three’ in last month’s Tests.
News24 reports that Williams, recently crowned the International Rugby Board player of the year, scored a fine try during Wales’s 21-18 victory over Australia on November 29.
But that was a lone success with New Zealand completing a grand slam of wins over Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England on successive weekends.
Meanwhile world champions South Africa were also unbeaten on a shortened trip which didn’t include a Test against Ireland while the Wallabies, who also saw off France and Italy, proved too strong for all their European opponents except the Welsh.
Nevertheless, while accepting the Tri-Nations were still the sides to beat, Williams told BBC Radio Five Live here Wednesday: “I don’t think we’re a million miles away. We’re narrowing the gap every year.”
The 31-year-old added: “Whereas in the past New Zealand would come over on tour and thump all the teams, this year teams are proving we can compete with the best in the world.
“We felt we were good enough to beat South Africa, we played a very good 40 minutes against New Zealand but lost in the second half and then we beat Australia.
“Saying that, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa are the best three sides in the world at the moment, without question.”
Williams refused to be drawn on whether Wales, who last season topped the Six Nations standings after completing a grand slam of wins, were still the best team in Europe.
“We will find out in the Six Nations,” the Ospreys flyer added. “I think we’re playing the best rugby at the moment.
“We’ll see. We’re progressing. I don’t want to jinx the side but we are capable of big things I think.”
Earlier this year, Williams became Wales’s leading try-scorer, breaking the record held by Gareth Thomas with his 41st score in just 56 appearances.
It was all a far cry from 2002 when the diminutive Williams was left pondering his rugby future.
“I felt I’d lost a bit of form due to recurring hamstring injuries, Williams explained.” It got to the point where I got really frustrated with myself.
“In the end I told myself I had to grow up – there are players out there with far worse injuries and gave myself a kick up the backside. It was a turning point in my career.”
One goal that Williams has still to achieve is to be a member of a victorious British and Irish Lions squad – something he aims to put right in South Africa next year.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about that slightly,” he admitted.
“I would love to go on this tour – it certainly would be my last. With the calibre of players going, they are capable of winning in South Africa.
“I’d love to be a part of that. It’s all about form, staying injury free and being fit for the next six or seven months.”Tweet