British and Irish Lions | Becoming a Lion: Martyn Williams

Martyn Williams was lucky enough to be selected to tour with the British and Irish Lions three times – but admits that special feeling on hearing his name never faded.

The Welsh flanker was first chosen in 2001 for the Tour in Australia, before also facing New Zealand in 2005 and finally South Africa in 2009.

Williams won four Test caps in the famous red shirt, while he also became a Wales legend – playing a major role in two Six Nations Grand Slam campaigns.

For those lucky enough to be up for a Lions call-up, the wait to find out your fate can often be tense and anxious, as Williams well knows.

“In 2005 we were sitting listening to the radio – it sounds like something out of the 1940s. It was a nightmare for me because they do it alphabetically so I was always last,” he said. he declares.

“It’s one of those where everyone asks you how you found out about it, but actually we found out about it along with everyone else in 2001, 2005 and 2009.

“In 2001 I was training with the Cardiff Blues and Dan Baugh, who was playing for us, ran out of the physio room because he had been listening to it on the radio, to tell us.

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“It was me, Dai Young and Rob Howley. I was a call from left field, I didn’t expect that in 2001. I remember coming back in the night and the news leaked out.

“My house was full of family and friends and we threw a big party. I was hoping in 2001, I was not expecting it. Whereas in 2005, it was more expected.

“They’re all very special but the first one was surreal. It takes ages to sink in.

“And then in 2009, I was watching on TV. It’s a long, long wait. The only player who knows in advance is the captain. It’s very unique.

Few players have toured three times with the Lions, which makes Williams’ longevity all the more remarkable.

His third Tour, in South Africa in 2009, was an incredible story after his retirement from Test match rugby in 2007, after the World Cup.

He was back soon after, helping Wales to the 2008 Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam, with his form so impressive it was impossible to leave at home.

“Going on three Tours was a huge thing for me personally. Not many people did it, and I retired from international rugby in 2007, so I never thought I would go back,” a- he declared.

“Me and Brian O’Driscoll did three together. Unfortunately we didn’t win any of them, but South Africa was a good place to finish.

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“You never expect to go on a Lions tour. In 2001 I wouldn’t have been devastated but in 2005 and 2009 I would have been distraught.

“It’s a different kind of weight. There’s always a doubt in your mind no matter how well you’ve played in the RBS 6 Nations.

“I think in 2005 and 2009 it was a huge relief.”

Charles P. Patton