Liam Williams is ready for an appointment with the player he describes as “my coach” when Wales tackle Johnny Sexton and Six Nations rivals Ireland on Saturday.
The Wales and Saracens wing makes his first international appearance since November after recovering from an abdominal injury that has restricted him to just three games in 14 weeks.
And the British & Irish Lions Test full-back will be an integral part of Wales’ victory bid as they look to keep alive their Six Nations title hopes against a team unbeaten at home for 15 months.
If Wales are to mark head coach Warren Gatland’s 100th Test at the helm with a win, then Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton will be an obstacle they need to overcome.
Ireland’s chief playmaker and goal-kicker was key to the Lions’ success in New Zealand last summer, and Williams knows from that first-hand experience just what a threat he is.
“Johnny is a great bloke,” Williams said. “I always call him ‘my coach’, and I will do so again at the weekend. He is class — there are no ifs or buts about it.
“We know exactly what we are going to be up against at the weekend. It’s going to be tough and it’s going to be fast.”
Williams’ recovery comes at the midway point of Wales’ Six Nations campaign, and it has provided Gatland with a welcome boost after losing the likes of Sam Warburton, Jonathan Davies and Rhys Webb through injuries.
“During the Georgia game [in November] I felt a pain in my groin, I came off and had a couple of scans,” Williams added.
“Luckily enough, I didn’t need to have an operation, although there was an option to have surgery, which looking back it may have been better to have had the operation and just six weeks out rather than come back after eight, play one game (against the Ospreys) and then be out for another four.
“But hindsight is a wonderful thing.
“I haven’t had anything like this before. Rugby players don’t tend to get this kind of injury – it is more common among footballers. It is not a contact injury, just to do with the muscle.
“I have played three games in 13-14 weeks, and it is probably one of the biggest injuries I have had in terms of how long I have been out.
“I broke my foot pre-World Cup (2015), and then during the World Cup, and I was out then for about 12 weeks, but with that kind of injury you sort of know how long you will be out for. We had to play it by ear, as it were, with this.”
Williams, along with his back-three colleagues Leigh Halfpenny and Steff Evans, can realistically expect to be tested under the high ball by Ireland half-backs stars Sexton and Conor Murray on Saturday.
And he said: “We know exactly what is going to be coming. With Murray at nine and Johnny Sexton at 10, they are two world-class players, and I am looking forward to the aerial battle against them.
“They are two great blokes, and to be fair, all the Irish boys were great on the Lions tour. I really enjoyed spending some time with them, and I am looking forward to seeing them at the weekend.
“Hopefully, we will have a war in the afternoon and then have a couple of pints in the evening!”