Jordan Williams can help Scarlets fill George North void, says Mark Jones
BEING compared with former All Black great Christian Cullen could be a millstone around the neck of a 19-year-old who has started only two games of top-class rugby.
But Jordan Williams insists he isn't the sort to let Sean Fitzpatrick's recent comparison go to his head.
Cullen was a rugby genius capable of cutting apart sides with devastating running from full-back.
Blessed with Rolls Royce acceleration and vision to see gaps that mere mortals couldn't see, he scored 46 tries in 58 Tests, including four try hat-tricks, one of them against Wales at Wembley in 1997. With Serge Blanco, he is up there as the greatest attacking full-back ever seen in rugby.
Williams has a long way to go before he can get anywhere near those kind of achievements, but his performances at the recent Junior World Championship underlined his potential. At times in the semi-final against South Africa, he looked as if he could have played the Baby Boks by himself, so spectacular was his running, with steps off either foot backed up by searing speed and confidence that screamed out: This is what I do. You either stop me or you will concede tries.
The Boks couldn't stop him, and did concede tries, with Williams helping to bundle them out of the tournament.
The challenge for him and the Scarlets' coaches in the months ahead will be to ensure he builds on his efforts this summer.
George North has left for Northampton and the West Walians are not ever going to find a like-for-like attacking option to replace him.
But there is more than one way to skin a tiger and while Williams may not be able to throw 16st opponents over his shoulder and run with them, he can humble sides with his footwork and inspire his own team-mates.
Scarlets attack coach Mark Jones conceded it wouldn't be easy to replace North and Andy Fenby, who has also departed, but added: "Jordan Williams, in particular, has the ability to score tries and fill some of that void.
"He is far more elusive than George would be, more of a Shane Williams-type player.
"With rugby there's room for all types.
"I'm not for one second going to suggest Jordan is a Shane Williams because they are completely different people. What I mean is they are of a similar stature and have different attributes to other, bigger players. Jordan is tremendously skilful. His challenge is to bring that to the regional and Heineken level but also to work on other aspects of his game over the next two or three seasons."
Cullen, Shane Williams — the comparisons never stop for Jinkin' Jordan.
His task in the years ahead will be to carve out a distinctive identity, as Shane did after breaking into the Neath team at the start of his career.
"Being compared to someone like Cullen might be a burden but these likenesses are made all the time about players," said Jones.
"There's no doubt about it — Jordan's a very talented boy.
"When you think how good he can be, it's really exciting."
Williams carries his talent lightly. With Rhodri Williams and Sion Bennett at a media session yesterday, he politely answered his quota of questions and never once gave the impression of thinking too much of himself. Evidently, he was near the front of the queue for level headedness as well as the one for rugby ability when he was born on a September day in 1993.
"It was nice to have had those comments from the Junior World Cup," he said.
"I heard a bit and it was good to have some of those comparisons with the greats that have played the game, to be mentioned in the same bracket.
"The comparisons do create a bit of pressure, but I thrive on it. When people expect big things it drives you on. Hopefully, I'll have a run of games in the pre-season friendlies and kick on from there."
Williams sees himself as a 15 — "there's more space and time on the ball and less pressure than having to control a game at ten" — and will spend this season searching for consistency, a quality that every special player has.
"It's probably the biggest thing in my game, to be consistent," he said. "I have patches in games where I lose form or concentration. Hopefully, I can sort that out this season."
A shimmy out of his seat and a glide across the room and he was gone, a diamond if ever there was one.
Now comes the challenge of shining him up.