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Nothing left to chance for the Class of 2005.

Byline: By SIMON THOMAS Western Mail

Martyn williams knew the Lions experience was going to be different second time around from the moment the 'class of 2005' met up. The Wales Grand Slam hero knows what it's like to be a British Lion, having toured Australia under Graham Henry four years ago.

But he hadn't experienced life with Sir Clive Woodward before - not until this week's first get-together of Woodward's 44-man squad for the trip to New Zealand.

Williams was on familiar enough territory, with the two-day session held at Wales' Vale of Glamorgan Hotel base.

But what took place there was anything but run of the mill.

'The first meeting was at half eight on Monday morning,' revealed Williams (pictured left).

'You usually just go into the boardroom and there's a couple of chairs and someone stands at the front. But we walked in and there were about five plasma screens, with music going on.

'We were thinking, 'Is this for us?' All the boys couldn't believe what was happening. It was like an official launch, or the announcement of the squad - and that was just to introduce everyone.

'It was brilliant and I think it set the tone. Straight away, you could see Sir Clive's not going to leave anything to chance, everything's really looked into to.'

So how did it all compare with life with the 2001 Lions?

'There were a couple of flip-charts then maybe, but no plasma screens,' said Williams.

Monday morning's eye-opening start was the beginning of a two-day get-together aimed at building team spirit among the players from the four home countries.

It culminated in a cabaret show, which gave Woodward the chance to analyse the make-up of each member of his squad.

'We had to put on a play,' revealed Williams.

'We were all given certain tasks and certain characters that you had to get into a five-minute cabaret.

'When they first gave it to us, you could see that nobody wanted to do it.

'But when it came down to doing it after dinner in the night it was a brilliant laugh and it was surprising how good some of the boys were.'

And what role was the player of the Six Nations handed?

'I was a pilot,' said Williams.

'I can't go into some of the details because... well, with a room full of 44 guys, you can imagine what it was like!'

He continued, 'It's always the same with those team-building days. You think to yourself, 'I really don't want to be doing this.' But once we actually did it, it was a really good laugh and it did break down a lot of barriers.

'When you meet up for the first time with 44 guys you don't know, it is quite daunting sometimes.

'Although you play against these people, you don't really get to know them. It's not like it was in the amateur days when you used to play a game and then all go out on the lash together.

'You don't tend to spend all that much time with the opposition after games now, because you are often shooting straight off.

'There's a lot of players you know to say 'all right' to, but you don't know them personally.

'So that's what those two days were about really, trying to break down those barriers and getting everyone to know each other.

'I think it was a success on that score and hopefully when we meet up again in three weeks time, everyone will be a lot more comfortable with each other.'

Yet there will obviously still be rivalry within the squad, with everyone after a Test spot and nowhere will the competition be more intense than in the back- row world where Williams operates.

'It's always a competitive area, because you've got loads of good players,' he said.

'With the Lions back-row, you've got the three World Cup winners going for a spot just to start with, so it's going to be difficult.

'But Sir Clive has made it clear that it's a clean slate for everyone going into this.

'Hopefully a lot of us can be involved in the game against Argentina , because it will be in Cardiff, and that will be good.'

Williams was in the capital himself yesterday, at the HMV store signing copies of the new DVD which celebrates Wales' Grand Slam triumph.

The Blues skipper takes a starring role in the DVD - entitled The Year of the Dragon - in more ways than one.

As well as standing out in the match action, he also provides a behind-the-scenes commentary, lifting the lid on what it was like to be inside the Welsh camp during the march to glory.

'When I had the phone call to do it, I thought it would just be a quick five- or 10-minute interview,' he said. 'But I had to go down to film it with Ieuan Evans and it took about five or six hours.

'I really enjoyed it though. It was good. We talked about what it was like before and after each game, trying to get across what the players' view was throughout the championship.'

The DVD is certainly proving a hit with the public, having sold more than 12,000 copies since going on sale on Monday, putting it fifth in the national chart.

'We are above Scooby Doo and just below The Exorcist apparently,' said Williams, who did the signing session along with Kevin Morgan.

'It's good. It just shows how the Welsh public jump on board when there's any little bit of success.

'I was quite surprised how many people turned up for the signing session. With it being a Thursday, we didn't think there'd be many there, but it was really busy.

'People were just thanking us for what we've done, which was great. I don't think you realise as players just how much it meant to everyone else.'
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 22, 2005
Words:989
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