Player of the Championship – Classic Winners: Martyn Williams 2005

Retro POTC Martyn Williams
For all of Wales’ Guinness Six Nations success this century, nothing can top the magic of 2005.

For all of Wales’ Guinness Six Nations success this century, nothing can top the magic of 2005.

Two years on from a winless Wooden Spoon, a similar group of players came together for five perfect matches over nine weeks that re-awakened Welsh rugby and made it a force once more

What’s come since – three more Grand Slams and a fourth title – all stands on the shoulders of 2005. A nation started to believe again. And they’ve not stopped believing since.

At the heart of their incredible rise to living legends was a flanker from Pontypridd known as ‘Nugget’, because of his golden hair. Luckily for them, he was also priceless on the pitch.

Martyn Williams won 100 Wales caps, toured three times with the Lions and won another Grand Slam in 2008. But 2005 will always be his finest Championship.

In a year when Brian O’Driscoll was at his peak and Shane Williams emerged as one of the finest players in the world, it says a lot that the public overwhelmingly voted for Martyn Williams as Player of the Championship.

He received 7,796 votes in a poll, beating Ireland’s O’Driscoll (2,466) and Shane Williams (2,066) convincingly.


Williams would later say: “I can still remember playing in those teams under Steve Hansen and thinking we were much better than our results suggested.

“Then in 2005, we got that win against England which changed everything on the opening weekend.”

Wales’ 11-9 win against England – and the last-gasp Gavin Henson kick to win it – is still one of the most famous Six Nations moments. It might also be one of Wales’ most important ever victories.

Williams was everywhere, tackling anything that moved in a performance that embodied Wales’ spirit.

Their momentum then carried to Rome, where they scored six tries in a convincing 38-8 win.

Williams got his first of the Championship on the stroke of half-time, taking a Hal Luscombe off-load, sprinting clear and grounding the ball at the base of the post.


Williams will always be best remembered for his two-try performance in Paris that inspired Wales to a 24-18 victory in Round 3.

“It wasn’t until we won in Paris that anyone started to take us seriously as Championship and Grand Slam contenders,” recalled Williams.

“That’s where I learned what it was like to be a winger. For them scoring a try is used to decide whether you have had a good game or not. I probably didn’t have my best game but I scored two tries so that’s all people remember!”

France burst into an early lead courtesy of Dimitri Yachvili and Aurelien Rougerie tries and led 15-6 at half-time. But within six minutes of the re-start, Williams flipped the game on its head and changed the entire 2005 Championship.

Stephen Jones and Rhys Williams combined to create space for Nugget’s first try, a superb move that sparked Wales into life.

And straight from the kick-off, they marched down the field again and Williams was on hand to dive over for his second. France were shell-shocked and could not recover, with Williams again part of a monumental defensive effort to hold on for victory.


“It’s a bit of a cliché but when we played Ireland in that final game, it really felt like we couldn’t lose, and that is still the best day of my career,” Williams recalled.

“Having grown up hearing about the Welsh team of the 70s, and the fact it had been 27 years since we last won the Grand Slam, that was just an incredible moment for all of us.

“It’s as if you told a 16-year-old now, who has grown up watching Wales be successful, that their next Grand Slam would come when they are 43 years old.”

Wales overwhelmed Scotland in Edinburgh in Round 4 and then sealed the title and the Grand Slam with a 32-20 victory against Ireland on an historic day.

Cardiff was so full of jubilant fans, it took the team bus an hour to crawl the 100 yards from the stadium to the reception party after the game.

Williams was again outstanding, winning turnovers, making tackles and never stopping in a lung-bursting performance.

“It is still the best day of my career,” he said.

Not long after, he was voted Player of the Championship – the perfect way to end a perfect campaign.