LIAM Williams has emerged as the number one transfer target for the Ospreys as he ponders the option of a move back to Welsh rugby.
The Wales and British & Irish Lions star’s Saracens contract expires at the end of this season. Williams, 28, has won 62 caps for Wales but has been ruled out of this morning’s World Cup semi-final against South Africa with an ankle injury.
He has enough international appearances to continue playing his club rugby in England as well as representing Wales under the Welsh Rugby Union’s 60-cap ruling.
Still, the Ospreys hope to lure him home and have made an audacious move for one of world rugby’s leading full-backs as they look to challenge for silverware over the coming seasons.
Should Williams opt to join Allen Clarke’s side it would signal a serious statement of intent by the Swansea-based region. He would become part of a stellar back-line at the Liberty Stadium which already includes Wales stars George North and Gareth Anscombe.
Williams has not put pen to paper on any deal yet and the Ospreys will undoubtedly face stiff competition for his signature.
Since swapping the Scarlets for Saracens in 2017, Williams has played a pivotal role in the north London side winning two English Premiership titles and a European Cup and director of rugby Mark McCall will not be prepared to part ways with one of his senior players easily.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself – and that’s not just on the pitch, it’s off it as well,” Williams said of his move to Saracens. “I was with Scarlets for six years and leaving Wales to go and play in London and with different people has been great. It’s been the best year of my life in terms of rugby.
“You learn off the best players in the world like Owen Farrell and Alex Goode. I love the way it is there. It’s the best club I’ve ever been at or experienced even though I’ve only experienced two.”
Saracens have been investigated for a breach of Premiership Rugby’s £7million salary cap and a financial penalty could lead to the club looking at their playing budget. The European champions have also signed England and Lions utility back Elliot Daly.
Despite moving to Saracens to play in his preferred position of outside-centre, Daly has been utilised at full-back and wing by England over the past year – Williams’ two main positions. Prior to his move to England, Williams spent seven years playing for the Scarlets where he became a firm fans’ favourite.
His move to London was in part based on wanting to be closer to model girlfriend Sophie Harries who he has been dating since 2015.
The Rugby Paper understands the Scarlets are monitoring Williams’ situation, but whether they make a move or not for him will depend on if they retain Leigh Halfpenny.
Wales star Halfpenny – who has been ousted from the Welsh full-back jersey by his good friend Williams – is also out of contract at the end of this season.