Battle for the best British winger: Jason Robinson versus Shane Williams

Ben Darvill

The rivalry between England and Wales in any walk of life is a fierce one but it is in sport that the two so often clash in passionate battles. Barring cricket, in which the two are one team, the sides are always desperate to defeat the other and take the bragging rights home for their fans.

While the gulf in class between the two in football is reducing, it is in rugby that England and Wales have seen their most exciting and heated exchanges.

From knocking the other out of a World Cup to denying them a Grand Slam, it is not a battle for the faint hearted.

One such clash that the Welsh and English will never agree upon is who is the better winger between Wales’ Shane Williams and England’s Jason Robinson, but we here at ClickOn have weighed in on it, so here goes:

Attacking:

Williams – 10/10   Robinson – 10/10

For Williams, it was a case of shining in a mediocre team. Wales were not ever really a consistent world force when he was at his best and it meant he didn’t ever really climb to the heights that his ability promised.

His side step was outstanding and his change of pace left defenders for dead so often. His incredible pace was only matched by his ability to jinx one way and go the other as his agility was unrivalled.

Williams scored 58 tries in 87 appearances for his country which is an outrageous scoring record. Players seemed so afraid of over-commiting that they would stand off him and give him more space, which played into his hands.

Jason Robinson was a wonderful runner and, like Williams, was one of the most exciting players when he had the ball in his hands. He was a cross-code convert coming over from Rugby League in 2001, and his seamless transition puts into perspective how special a player he was with Sam Burgess trying and failing to do the same for England recently.

His small frame meant that he was even more slippery to grab onto as he danced past the opposition, dropping his shoulder to ghost past players with ease. For England, Robinson played in 51 matches crossing the whitewash 28 times.

He was not as a prolific a scorer as the Welshman but he was no less dangerous. As previously mentioned, Williams played for an average Welsh side that he was the focal attacking point of. For Robinson, he was a star in a team of talent, meaning tries and moments of brilliance could come from anywhere on the pitch.

In all honesty the two were incredibly gift attackers that could spark at any moment.

Defence:

Williams – 8   Robinson – 8

Due to their size, with Williams standing at five foot seven and Robinson just and inch taller, it would be very easy to assume they would be lightweights in defence. After all, modern day rugby is a place in which very few players are below six foot tall and they are about as wide.

But Williams and Robinson broke the mould on this one. They were not a target for the opposition in defence and they more than held their own on the touchline. They were of course not defensive powerhouses that could force a forward into touch, but they didn’t ever shirk the responsibility of a big tackle.

These days wingers are chosen to be big hard hitting men that don’t miss a tackle and can take a lot of weight into their runs. While this may aid them in crash ball situations and defensively, it means that players like Robinson and Williams are unable to make it to the top.

While George North is a fine player that can pick gaps in the opposition’s defensive line, he is not of the same ilk as either of the afore mentioned players.

X-factor:

Robinson – 10    Williams – 10

Both had an undeniable X-factor. Whether it was receiving the ball on the wing to dab down or exploding from their own 22 to run through the entire team and score. Their immense pace and blistering pace struck fear into the hearts of the opposition’s defenders.

The moment Robinson’s genius was displayed to the entire rugby world was in the 2003 World Cup against Wales. With England trailing in the quarter-final they needed a moment of magic, and it came from Robinson.

The full-back received the ball in the midfield and ghosted past a number of Welsh defenders as he jinxed backwards and forwards before passing to Will Greenwood to score. It was one of the great World Cup tries and set England on their way to victory in the quarter-final and in the entire competition.

For the Welshman it was a Test match against South Africa in 2008. With Wales trailing 14-10 they needed to make sure they were the next team to score if they were to stay in the game against a strong South African side.

The Winger picked up the loose ball and blasted past the first defender before he decided to take the ball back into trouble as four men were bearing down on him. He then darted past them leaving all the defenders dizzy in his wake. It was a stunning score and one worthy of being his highlight.

Winning pedigree:

Williams – 6    Robinson – 10

This is the one that really separates the two players. While both are so similar in ability and strengths, one has been far more successful than the other.

Williams claimed Grand Slam victories in the Six Nations in 2005 and 2008, but that was all he was really able to achieve in a Welsh side who’s ability pails in comparison to their teams since then. He was named as the IRB Player of the Year in 2008, the first Welshman to do so.

Robinson on the other hand enjoyed huge success on the international stage. Billy Whizz as he was known won the Championship in 2001 in his first season after crossing codes from Rugby League before England won the Grand Slam in 2003.

Where he really beats Williams is in his World Cup victory in 2003. Robinson was outstanding throughout the tournament at full-back and wing  and scored vital tries throughout the competition, including in the final against Australia.

The final score sees Robinson win 38 to 34, but realistically it is so difficult to split the two players.

In modern rugby there has been a huge swing towards hulking wingers that make big tackles and take on players. There are no attackers of the same silky ability and size as Robinson and Williams though, who made attacking and finding space look easy.

When fans went to watch a team with one of them playing they would invariably leave talking about that moment in which Robinson ghosted through the midfield, or when Williams had the defenders running in circles after him.

The closest player to the two in modern rugby is Wasps Christian Wade, but he is consistently snubbed by England because of his height, a factor that made Robinson and Williams so incredible.

It is exceptionally disappointing that world rugby has not seen the like of either of these players in many years. Their small frames hid deceptively powerful men with lightning fast feet, a ridiculous change of pace and a side-step that had even the commentators dizzy.

While a Welshman may say Williams was better, an Englishman would likely side with Robinson. It is  adequate that will not be settled, but one thing is for sure, we have been blessed with two of the most exciting wingers in rugby history at the same time, and we should enjoy every highlight reel of theirs on the internet.

Like we need a reason to show his World Cup final try again:

 

 

 

 

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