Meet Teddy Williams – the Wales bolter with rugby in his blood
Rugby is in the blood for Teddy Williams and he’s certainly maintaining the family tradition, having just earned a shock call-up to Wales’ Six Nations squad.
It’s some story, with the 22-year-old second row only having made his first start for Cardiff on Sunday, making him the real bolter in Warren Gatland’s selection.
But it’s also one tinged with poignancy, with his Welsh international father Owain having passed away 16 months ago, aged 56, after a long battle with cancer.
The family has been hard hit by tragedy, with Teddy’s uncle Gareth – a former Wales and Lions back row – having died in 2018 after suffering from a rare neurological illness, multiple system atrophy.
Today, the Williams rugby tradition continues with Teddy and his three brothers – including Richmond lock Henri – all having taken up the sport.
Owain, who was a hugely popular back row forward for Glamorgan Wanderers, Bridgend and Cardiff, was very proud and supportive of his boys.
“I know how much my dad used to love watching any of us play,” says Teddy.
“He used to be at all the games and he would have loved to have seen some of the matches we’ve had down here at the Arms Park recently.
“Looking back at some of the stand-out games over the last year, I just know he would have loved them.
“I probably didn’t realise how highly held dad is at Cardiff. You probably take it a little bit for granted that he was a rugby player, but he was also just dad.”
Teddy began his rugby journey at CRICC, progressing during his time at Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr and Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf, representing Cardiff Schools and then joining the Cardiff Rugby Academy.
“I started playing when I was about eight or nine. I’ve always enjoyed playing all kinds of sport, but particularly rugby,” he says.
He made his regional debut against Benetton in 2020 and his promise was recognised at international level with seven caps for Wales U20s.
Following the sad passing of his father in September 2021, he showed his strength of character by taking to the field just days after the funeral, while he further demonstrated his maturity during that period by attending a former Cardiff players reunion, where Owain – who made 221 appearances for the club – was remembered.
At the end of last season, Teddy cycled 500 kms from the Arms Park to Paris in aid of the club’s community foundation, with charity being close to his heart, particularly Marie Curie and City Hospice, who looked after and supported Owain through his illness.
“They were both brilliant with Dad. In the last few months, every day there were nurses coming around multiple times,” he said.
“It was so helpful and I am grateful to have experienced just how much amazing work these charities do.”
Currently combining his rugby with studying civil engineering at Cardiff University, Williams has been progressing steadily this season with a series of promising cameos off the bench.
Then, on Sunday, came the breakthrough game. Handed his first start in the Challenge Cup clash with Newcastle, he delivered an outstanding display in a 42-10 triumph, ruling the roost at the lineout and making a big impact around the field with his athleticism and carrying.
The watching Warren Gatland was clearly impressed. So much so that the uncapped Williams now finds himself in the 37-man Wales squad for the Six Nations.
That’s reward for the hard graft he has put in off the field over the last year or so.
“I’ve worked closely with the strength and conditioning coaches here just to try and get a bit bigger basically,” he explained.
“Obviously I’m tall, but I’m not naturally the biggest guy in the world, so I’ve just been trying to get a bit bigger to play at this level. I am up to about 118kgs (18st 6lbs) now. It’s just a question of where you feel comfortable playing at in terms of fitness and being able to get through collisions.”
Even though it was just his first start, the 6ft 6ins Williams was the man making the lineout calls against Newcastle, providing further evidence of his maturity.
“That’s a big part of my game. I always love to try and make my lineout play as much of a strength as I can,” he said.
“I have really enjoyed being involved the last few weeks. I love playing here. It’s the club I supported as a youngster and it’s special to play at the Arms Park. We’ve got a really good group and there’s a good group of my friends here.”
Cardiff’s director of rugby Dai Young has been delighted by the strides Williams has made.
“That was definitely his best game for us on the weekend. He threw himself about and made a lot of good tackles and a lot of good carries. I thought he ran the lineout really well, so I was really pleased with his performance.
“He is certainly really maturing,” said the former Wales and Lions prop.
“He has worked really hard over the last 12 month. We’ve always known he has got quality and he is a very good rugby player. We needed him to develop a bit more physicality.
“When you play against some of the South Africans and the island boys, they are real big boys and the first thing you have got to do is win is collisions. The work Teddy has put in the last six months to increase his physicality has been outstanding.”
Now the international stage beckons, with young Williams doing his family proud.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.