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Rugby league: Rhys Williams honoured to line up alongside Welsh legend Gareth Thomas

WARRINGTON Wolves’ Rhys Williams says playing alongside childhood icon Gareth Thomas will be a surreal experience when the Mynydd Isa winger lines up alongside the Welsh legend to represent the Principality against Italy on Sunday at the Racecourse.

Twenty-year-old Williams, who started out playing rugby union with Mold, idolised Welsh union skipper Thomas when he was growing up.

Now Williams, who won the European Championships with Wales last year, will take to the field as Thomas’ equal as the Crusaders veteran steps out to represent his nation in the 13-man code.

“It is surreal,” said Williams. “I grew up in awe of Gareth Thomas and now I will be able to play alongside him.

“Once the game starts though, the focus is on Wales and continuing our success.”

Sunday’s friendly is a warm-up before Wales’ 2010 European Cup matches begin in earnest with Ireland at the Knoll in Neath on October 17.

And Rhys’ brother Gavin, also at Warrington, will also be in action playing for Wales under 23s at Colwyn Bay.

“We haven’t thought about what it means to the family,” said Rhys. “We just get on with it.”

This season Rhys made inroads into the Warrington Wolves first team, scoring on his Super League debut at Murrayfield.

But he believes next season he could begin to make a real mark.

“I’m happy with this season and happy at the Wolves,” he said. “I’ve spoken Tony Smith (head coach) and he said he was happy with my progress.

“I’ve just got to keep working hard and focus on doing the right things and I believe my chance will come.

“I’ve had a taste of Super League and I want to kick on and get more but Chris Hicks and Chris Riley have been in superb form.”