Cyberspace is full of people who are convinced they know everything about Liam Williams — that he is an ultra-motivated individual, that he is someone you’d want to be waiting below to catch you if you had the misfortune to fall from a high building, that he would scrap with an angry Rottweiler if it would benefit his team in the slightest, that he can lose himself in a cloud of red mist faster than most can count to 10.
What is to be said?
History suggests some of those takes on the player known as ‘Sanjay’ might well be true.
But they don’t offer a complete picture.
His former coach Glenn Delaney knows there’s more to Williams — much more.
“He was brilliant to deal with during my time at the Scarlets,” said Delaney, who left the west Wales region towards the end of last season.
“I remember when we were having the conversations about Liam coming back to Wales from Saracens. I drove out to see him and his partner Sophie at their house.
“I really enjoyed his company.
“He’s a great lad, with a lovely family, and I immediately liked him and his personality. He’s the type of guy who’ll add a lot to any environment he’s in. It was good to get to know him.”
On Saturday, Williams runs out as a starter for the Lions after one of the most eventful, and in many ways most challenging, years of his career.
Injuries and Wales calls have meant he played just three games for the Scarlets after his return from England, and in one of those, against Cardiff Blues, he was sent off for leading with his head into a ruck.
He copped a load of social media abuse for that dismissal and it was much the same story after he was yellow-carded — harshly, many felt, including the referee Nigel Owens — while playing for Wales in their tilt at a Six Nations Grand Slam against France in March.
So severe was the flak directed at their full-back, that the Welsh Rugby Union intervened in defence of Williams, tweeting several screenshots of abusive messages sent to the Scarlet online, with the WRU post adding: “The players are proud to represent their country and their jersey. The abuse players are receiving has to stop. This is a tiny example of the abuse just one player received last night.
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“In order to help drive the call for change, the players want to highlight the amount of abuse and bile that circulates on social media platforms. We value our fans’ support in the matter.”
Williams being Williams, he probably would haven’t wanted a fuss made of the episode. But, ultimately, every player deserves fair play online. That night in the spring he didn’t get it off too many people.
What did Delaney make of it all? “We live in a funny world with social media and the way people are treated online.
“As a society we are still learning how to deal with that.
“People have to understand that comments made on social media can be hurtful.
“The difference when you are out and someone says something to you is that it can be shaken off.
“But the stuff online is there forever.
“That’s a different ball game.
“We had an example earlier in the year when other players were coming across some stuff on social media which was harsh.
“I was no different with any of the players.
“If any of them needed an arm around the shoulder I was there as a coach to support them.
“There were so many things over a year and a half that we all needed support with, myself included.
“With Covid and everything that went with it, it was a very strange year.”
Williams finished the Six Nations as a champion with Wales and has a chance to end his campaign on the highest possible note this weekend when he plays in the decisive Test of the series for the Lions against South Africa.
Delaney has no doubt he will prove up to the job.
“He is a world-class player who has certain attributes that put him in that classification,” said the New Zealander.
“Given the way the series has gone in South Africa, the high ball is pretty much fundamental to the game.
“Liam has that unique point of difference, so I can imagine that’s one of the reasons why he’s been picked — namely to go and defuse the bombs.
“That will excite him.
“I can remember back four years ago when I was coaching Canterbury at the time and he was just outstanding on that Lions tour. Liam sparked the great Sean O’Brien try in that series that people are talking about even now.
“He’s a world-class performer.
“Regardless of what he’s been through this season, the history of the campaign, this is now about a game this weekend and he’s well-equipped from a skill perspective and a mental and motivation perspective to deal with it.”
One of the challenges in a pressure-cooker environment like the one the Lions will play in over the weekend will be to maintain discipline, but Williams performed well for Warren Gatland in that respect in the closing times of the New Zealander’s Wales tenure.
Ultimately, he isn’t going to change the way he plays.
He knows no other way than to give a game everything. Full-on, with total commitment.
“He’s fully committed and invested in what he does,” said Delaney.
“At heart, he’s a competitor.
“He competes in every moment on the field.
“You have to have that streak in you to get to the highest point in the game. Liam shares that streak with many players who have played international rugby.
“That’s why they do it.
“His tenacity and competitiveness are factors which have probably led to his being selected for this game.
“A match might come down to a single moment, and someone like Liam has shown in the past he has those moments in him. He’s a whole-hearted player and he competes in every moment. Hopefully, at the weekend he’ll get that one opportunity to deliver.
“He’s someone you’d always want in your side, a great guy to have around.”
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