The low point came in early summer, when there was a real possibility that former Wales captain Scott Williams might have to look abroad to continue his rugby career.
He and the Ospreys had parted company after a three-year relationship during which the centre played just 27 games amid much ill-fortune with injuries.
In a revealing interview in October 2020 Williams admitted that he hadn’t played without pain for 21 months. The memory is still clear of the Wales international missing tackles against Ulster in the autumn of 2019 that he normally would have nailed without bother and also finding it hard to make any sort of impact in attack.
His body simply wouldn’t cash the cheques his mind was writing. It was sad to see.
Then he sustained a shoulder problem playing against the Dragons in January of last year. It was to prove his final Ospreys game.
The challenge after his exit from the Swansea-based region was to find another team to play for, preferably in Wales, but there was no mad rush among the regions to take him on.
At one point, it looked as if the much-respected west Walian might have to accept a deal to play in France. There were some of the opinion his best days were in the past.
But the Scarlets eventually signed him and the signs are that they oversaw a smart piece of business.
Williams – who captained Wales in the preparations for the 2015 Rugby World Cup – has been excellent for them, turning back the clock with a series of authoritative displays. Against Benetton in October, he set up two tries, beat four defenders and returned a clean defensive sheet: 11 tackles made, not a single one missed.
He was similarly dominant against the Ospreys earlier this month, and, four months into the season, he is the only regional player to have won two official man-of-the-match awards in 2021-22.
“He has been one of our most consistent players,” said Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel ahead of the region’s away Heineken Champions Cup match against Bordeaux on Sunday.
“When you make a move to another club, sometimes it works for you and you thrive. Scotty picked up a few injuries when he was at the Ospreys and they didn’t see the best of him.
“He’s obviously disappointed from that perspective.
“He was keen to come back and for us to have him back was great.
“He epitomises what we want to be. He loves putting on the shirt and will play hard every day for us. He’s led as well. I’ve made him captain on a number of occasions when Foxy (Jonathan Davies) has not been available. He has an aura about him that the boys want to follow him.
“I think he has a bit to go, in all honesty, but from where he was 18 months ago, struggling with an injury and picking up bad luck, he seems happy and content.
“I’ve been happy with what he’s given us, on and off the field.
“He’s been very good with our young boys.”
Williams has played in five out of the six games the Scarlets have played this season.
The big injury that blighted his stint with the Ospreys was a back problem.
Before the 2019 World Cup, when he reported for Wales’ extended-squad training camp, it reached the point when he could barely bend over. “When Scott first came into camp, he was really struggling with his back,” reported Warren Gatland back then. “He couldn’t bend down to pick up a ball off the ground.”
It says much for the Newcastle Emlyn player’s resolve that he came close to claiming a place in Gatland’s squad for the global tournament in Japan.
There were also hamstring and ankle issues to contend with during his Ospreys stay, as well as the aforementioned shoulder injury.
Some things are just not meant to be.
But he has been operating at a high level this season. “The two best players in Welsh rugby this term have been Scott and Jac Morgan, of the Ospreys,” contended a close observer of the regional scene. “Scott, in particular, has been outstanding.”
It started well for Williams in his first game back in a Scarlets shirt. There was a bit of everything from him against Edinburgh in late September — gainline-denting carries, delayed passes, sweetly executed passes, a clean break, ground made.
Is he playing well enough now to add to his 58 Wales caps? Might he be an option for Wayne Pivac when he names his Six Nations squad next week?
“Wayne will have his view on Scotty,” said Peel.
“I can only say what I see in him.
“He’s been very good for us. If he fits into Wayne’s game-plan, then I back him.”
It’s a heartwarming tale.
Whether Pivac picks him or not next week, Williams has shown true character this season, and in rugby there are not many more valuable commodities.
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