Showman Jordan Williams challenged to dazzle for Scarlets
SCARLETS talent Jordan Williams has been challenged to transfer his sparkling Junior World Cup form on to the regional stage.
The 19-year-old, whose magical feet and searing pace dazzled onlookers for Wales Under-20s in France this summer, comes in on the wing for this evening's RaboDirect Pro12 match against Treviso in Llanelli (6.30pm) as Scarlets head coach Simon Easterby keeps faith with the rest of the side thumped by Leinster last weekend.
Williams made a second-half appearance off the bench against the Dubliners, but had little opportunity to showcase his skills as Leinster put the Scarlets to the sword with some clinical finishing.
With Kristian Phillips sidelined for up to six weeks because of a fractured bone in his hand, Easterby has been forced into another reshuffle in his back three.
And that means Williams gets another chance to enhance a reputation that has seen him compared to showmen of the calibre of Christian Cullen and Shane Williams.
"Everyone has got a slightly different view of Jordan's best position because he is so versatile," said forwards coach Danny Wilson, Williams's coach at under-20 level for the last two seasons. "He can kick off both feet, can pass off his right and left hand and can beat anybody, as we have seen. At the Junior World Cup we played him at 15 because if you kick loose to him he is devastating.
"In three games in that World Cup he was outstanding and there were individual moments when I remember Byron Hayward going back over the tapes and saying 'I still can't believe how he has managed to do it'. That is an ability he has produced naturally. We definitely need to hone that.
"I saw the growth in Jordan at the World Cup this summer. I had worked with him the year before that, we all knew he had that capability but had only seen that at semi-pro level. To see it on the world stage, albeit at 20s level, showed he can make the step up.
"His attitude at that World Cup was fantastic — he was a great guy to have around the place.
"After making the transition from Premiership to international 20s standard, he now needs to make the same at regional level and hopefully, the next step after that."
Wilson admitted that because of the financial restraints currently gripping the regional game, more and more players of Williams's age are going to be given their chance at senior level. "What we are seeing in Wales is that there are so many young players being exposed to regional rugby because of the situation we are in. We are not signing big overseas players with overseas budgets because we don't have them," he added.
"We have a job to develop young pros but also everybody — the public — has a responsibility to let those players have a chance to grow.
"It is not going to happen overnight and they like, everyone, learn from errors. The problem is their errors are live on TV, while previously that hasn't been the case because they haven't been exposed as quickly."
The only other changes to the Scarlets matchday squad sees the return of British Lions centre Jonathan Davies, while Nick Reynolds and prop Deacon Manu also come on to the bench.
Wilson and the rest of the Scarlets coaching team will be hoping to witness a much-improved performance with ball in hand this evening.
A woeful turnover rate handed the game to Leinster last weekend, while defensive frailties also came to the fore late on. "We're fully aware our ball retention in the second half was abysmal," added Wilson. "It was probably the worst since I have been here. We didn't see that coming after being in control in the first half and I'm hoping it's a one-off. The boys have addressed it this week in training."
Scarlets: G. Owen; L. Williams; S. Williams; S. Shingler; J. Williams; R. Priestland; G. Davies; P. John; K. Owens; S. Lee; G. Earle; J. Snyman; A. Shingler, R. McCusker (capt), J. Turnbull. Reps: E. Phillips, R. Evans, D. Manu, J. Ball, S. Timani, A. Davies, J. Davies, N. Reynolds.
Treviso: B.Williams; L. Nitoglia; M. Campagnaro; L. Morisi; L. McLean; A Di Bernardo; T. Botes; R. Barbieri; A. Zanni; M.Vosawai; V. Bernabò; A. Pavanello (capt); L. Cittadini; G. Maistri; M. Rizzo.