Italy the life for Springbok Williams

 

The weather may be dreadful and he may not be earning a fortune, but Chester Williams is convinced that Italy is the way back to his World Cup-winning Springbok side. Williams (27), has spent less than a week of his new life with second division side Casale. But he is already determined to make a successful return to South Africa next year.

"I came to Italy because I need to get my physical fitness back, to get into training and to play at a decent level to prepare myself for the trials," he said. "I'll be back in South Africa for them in March.

"There's a good standard of rugby in Italy. I'd played against the Italians in Rome two years ago and I just preferred to come here."

Nick Mallett is the new national coach and Williams added: "I know he is very much in favour of having black players in the team and I hope I can win back my place with the Springboks."

In the meantime, he has to concentrate on his life in Italy, which unfortunately started out with defeat at Parma on Sunday.

Revealing the background to his acquisition, Casale president Giovanni Maggiore said: "I have a container business and . . . contacts with South Africa. "I asked around if there was a good player available and the name that came forward was Williams, who was out of the national team after two knee injuries.

"When I told our coach who I was bringing onboard, he nearly fainted."

Maggiore denied he was paying a fortune for the man who scored four tries against Western Samoa in the 1995 World Cup quarter-finals.

"Nobody will believe me, but including the air tickets it's barely costing me 20 million lira (£8,000)," he said.

Alan Tait and James Craig have withdrawn from the Scotland squad to face South Africa at Murrayfield on Saturday because of injury. Tait joins his Newcastle colleague, lock Doddie Weir, who is suffering with a back problem, on the sidelines. Craig pulled his hamstring in training yesterday.