Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Wales Online
Wales Online
Ben James

The 'outstanding' prospect nicknamed 'Skinny Bill Williams' who just started the season with a bang

121 seconds into the second half at the Arms Park, Max Llewellyn received the ball just behind the halfway line.

Buoyed by a first half that had seen him score one try and create another, he carried with typical intent towards the outside shoulder of Munster blindside Jack O’Donoghue - with the flanker more than a little aware of the gaping space outside him.

Head down, Llewellyn's intent was clear - at least, it was to Munster centre Malakai Fekitoa. The 24-cap All Black jammed into his opposite number, coming to the aid of his captain.

READ MORE: Sunday rugby news as Welsh boss slams his stars and South Africa hit out furiously at claims of players taking drugs

However, as Fekitoa sped towards Llewellyn, the Cardiff centre freed the ball from close to his body as he prepared a cat-flap offload. With a flick of the wrist, the ball sailed past the helplessly committed Fekitoa.

And straight onto the deck, missing the intended recipient Thomas Young by a yard or two. Winger Aled Summerhill was forced to stop dead in his tracks to bend over, pick up the stray ball and ensure Cardiff kept possession.

"I didn't get told off as we thankfully kept the ball," admitted Llewellyn afterwards. "I'm sure I would have if Munster had got it."

It might seem a little unfair - even bizarre - to focus on a rare moment where Llewellyn's execution didn't quite match his intentions after a performance where he barrelled through the Munster defence to score the opening try before scything through once again to put Kristian Dacey over for Cardiff's second.

However, for all that Llewellyn did right - and he did a hell of a lot right, from his wicked eye for a hard angle to his deft range of passing - a misguided offload could be a sign of what more is to come. He carried strongly, too strong for Munster at times, but the desire to marry that with something more subtle is there too.

Growing up, the 23-year-old's favourite player was All Black Sonny Bill Williams. In fairness, it's the go-to answer for many centres of a certain young age, but such was Williams' impact on the game, it's understandable.

"My dad used to call me Skinny Bill Williams," joked Llewellyn afterwards. "That's my little nickname in the family - Skinny Bill. I can't box though, I'm more of a lover than a fighter!

"I used to love his offloading ability. In school, I'd do that a lot.

"As I've gone up the areas, I've tried to limit that slightly to be more consistent and make less errors. Now I'm getting more confident, it's something I can bring back into my game."

That is clear to see. It's no surprise that after a sterling half of rugby, Llewellyn found the confidence to attempt that offload. The fact that the superlative Taulupe Faletau had navigated his arm over and around the head of Chris Farrell some 20 seconds earlier for his own audacious offload might also have played a part.

Head coach Dai Young stressed the importance of senior players and the impact they'll have on someone of Llewellyn's ability after the match. He was referring specifically to Cardiff's stable of midfield options - namely Rey Lee-Lo and Willis Halaholo - but the mercurial talent of the multi-faceted Faletau isn't exactly a bad one to look to either.

"He played towards the end of last year, he had a few games," said Young of Llewellyn, who Jame Roberts described as "outstanding" on punditry duty for the BBC. "The young players are going to give you a bit of a roller-coaster, but you've got to stick with them.

"What we don't want to do is overplay or overexpose them. We're in a good position with our four centres. We've got two real experienced guys in Rey and Willis and then you've got Max and Mason (Grady) coming through.

"We can drip-feed those players in when we see fit. Part of the job is having the experienced players there to help them. I think when we played Benetton last year, the average age of the backline was 21. That's probably not the way to go, but our hands were tied a little bit with injuries.

"In an ideal world, we want to play a bit of youth with a bit of experience and bring it through. But Max has come on leaps and bounds in a short space of time. What he's looking for now is consistency."

So consistency is the buzz word for player and coach, but the more often we see him hitting dangerously hard lines and barrelling through front-five forwards, the likelier it is we start to see those hands get free and offloads being pushed as a result.

Many more of them won't go to ground, either. That's an exciting thought for those in CF10.


Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.