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Opinion: How the hell did Shane Williams get a Lions call ahead of Tim Visser?

Warren Gatland may have to eat his ‘just one game’ words if the Welsh winger performs well on Tuesday.

Image: INPHO/Billy Stickland

HISTORY WAS MADE in the early hours of this morning when the first ever Mitsubishi Dynaboars player was selected for the British & Irish Lions.

Shane Williams, in Australia on punditry duty, will start for the Lions on the left wing against the two-time Super Rugby champions, the ACT Brumbies, in Canberra on Tuesday.

Tour manager Andy Irvine looked like a man who has to tell his children that Fido has chased his last car when he uttered the words ‘and number 11 is… Shane Williams’ earlier today. Upon the shock announcement of his inclusion, head coach Warren Gatland said, “We just  said we needed him for one game. He’s already halfway here.”

Sounds like a good enough reason to me.

Williams has 60 tries in 91 Test matches, including two in four with the Lions, and had a brief playing stint in Japan’s J-League so we’re not talking about Simon Geoghegan being asked to locate his old boots in the garage and fly down. Still, with the decision to call up a replacement winger made 60 hours before kick-off in Canberra there are plenty of other active international players that could have arrived in Australia in plenty of time to play.

The Irish duo of Fergus McFadden and Andrew Trimble, two try-scorers last night in the victory over Canada, could both do a job out left and Harlequins and England back Mike Brown must be banging his head against the wall. He played fullback for England in Argentina but was posted on the left wing for his country’s entire Six Nations campaign.

The most perplexing snub is reserved for Scotland’s Dutch-born winger Tim Visser. The Pro12′s top try scorer for the past four seasons, and scorer of six tries in 11 Test games (including tries against New Zealand and France), was a shock omission from the original, 37-man squad.

While Williams was scoring a couple of tries for the Dynaboars against the mighty Kurita Water, last November, Visser was racing in a double for Scotland against the world-champion All Blacks.

YouTube credit: RUGBY4You

The 26-year-old is a proven try-scorer for club(s) and country and has worked hard in the past two years to shore up a defensive game that was previously his weak point. Speaking to TheScore.ie earlier this year, he spoke of his desire to be the first Dutch-born player to appear for the Lions. He said:

Of course I’m worried about making the plane but if you don’t have ambitions of playing for the Lions, at the very top level of the game, what would you play rugby for? It would be fantastic to play with someone like Brian O’Driscoll, who is still at the top of his game. Good centres can make a winger’s game very easy. To play with him would be pretty special.”

Instead, Shane Williams will be the history-maker and Visser will have to settle for being special for Scotland after being cruelly overlooked on three occasions.

Will Gatland sticks to his words if Williams lacerates the Brumbies and runs in a hat-trick? Welcome to Australia Shane.

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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