Martin Johnson has paid a glowing tribute to one of the players who could help destroy England on Saturday - Wales star Martyn Williams.
The Cardiff Blues flanker captained Wales in their opening RBS 6 Nations victory over Scotland last weekend, a role the 33-year-old can expect to retain if Ryan Jones does not shake off a calf muscle strain which sidelined him at Murrayfield.
Jones, fellow calf muscle casualty Gavin Henson and wing Shane Williams (ankle), are Wales boss Warren Gatland’s injury concerns ahead of his planned team announcement tomorrow lunchtime.
Martyn Williams though, is both immovable object and irresistible force as he prepares to win his 86th cap, just one behind former fly-half Neil Jenkins, who stands fourth on the all-time Wales list.
And Williams’ sustained impact at Test level is not lost on England manager Johnson, skipper of the 2001 Lions squad in Australia which included the dynamic Welsh openside.
Johnson said: “Martyn Williams is a very astute player who seems to be getting better with age and needs to be countered by our whole team.
“He is a key player for Wales, he is a very good player.
“I remember him coming on the 2001 Lions tour. He has still got all the skills and mentally he still has the know-how from experience.
“He is a great link man with off-loads and passes. He is very dangerous.
“From a personal point of view, it will be good to see him. He is a very nice guy.
“He was talking about retiring after the 2007 World Cup. I am happy to see him playing well and being successful - just not this Saturday afternoon.”
Williams made it sixth time lucky as Wales captain in Edinburgh, ending a run of defeats on the previous occasions he led his country against Scotland, France, Australia and New Zealand (2003), plus Ireland the following year.
“It has been good to get that monkey off my back,” admitted Williams, who has played in all nine of Wales’ 6 Nations clashes against England, winning three and losing six.
“I am not sure Warren was aware of my record as captain. I don’t think he would have asked me if he had known I was none out of five.
“I was really pleased with the way the boys responded.
“There were a lot of leaders out there with the likes of Stephen (Jones) and Alun-Wyn (Jones), so that made the job easier.
“I think it is testament to the side that we lost Ryan so late on, and yet it didn’t really affect us that much out there on the field.
“Obviously, there was a bit of disruption with him pulling out, but Dafydd Jones came in and had an excellent game. I thought Dafydd was outstanding, his work-rate was huge.”
England, written off by the bookmakers for Saturday’s Millennium Stadium showdown, will undoubtedly look to target Wales up front.
But Williams believes their arch rivals could be forced to think again and claims it is time the Wales front five received some overdue acclaim.
“The front five haven’t had the credit they deserve over the last 12 months,” he said.
“Our scrum was so efficient (against Scotland), and the knock-on effect from that is the contact area is easier and that was the crux of it.
“We were on the front foot and that made it a lot easier for us. The front five provided the platform for us and then we’ve got the boys behind like Shane and Lee Byrne to finish things off.”
Wales are seeking a hat-trick of 6 Nations wins against England for the first time and have been installed as 2/9 favourites, with England 3/1.