Thank you for subscribingWe have more newslettersShow meSee ourprivacy notice

June 2, 2019.

With any Welsh eyes taking in a uncapped summer clash between an England XV and the Barbarians were inevitably drawn to a certain Rhys Webb turning out for the famous club, they probably wouldn’t have paid too much to the man lining up at 12 for this youthful England side.

Starting at inside centre that day was a then 22-year-old Johnny Williams, making his only appearance with the red rose on his chest to date.

A year on, a lot has changed since that Barbarians game.

And, with a potential move to the Scarlets on the cards for the Welsh-qualified centre, things could change even more very soon.

PULLING ON THE RED ROSE

Williams was a part of the dominant England U20 side that won the 2016 World Championship, crossing the whitewash twice for a team that scored 24 tries across their five matches in the tournament.

By the time last summer rolled around, Williams had impressed with Newcastle enough to be selected in Jim Mallinders’ youthful England team.

Paired alongside Joe Marchant, who stole the show with an eye-catching performance, Williams provided the nuts and bolts in midfield – quietly impressing in the 51-43 victory.

Making more metres than any other England player that day, he also crossed for a try following some decent work from former Cardiff Met student Alex Dombrandt.

Coming away from Twickenham that day, Williams might have dreamed of sneaking into Eddie Jones’ World Cup plans at the last minute.

Little did he know that would be the last match he would play for six months.

THE WORST POSSIBLE NEWS

While England were on their way to the World Cup final in Japan, Williams was watching the action from a hospital bed.

Having just finished pre-season with Newcastle Falcons, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Months after scoring at Twickenham, he was now undergoing chemotherapy.

“It was definitely a shock,” he told the BBC last year. “I had just finished pre-season and it was probably the fittest and strongest I had ever been.

“My last game was playing for England against the Baa-Baas in the summer, so I was on a huge high. Then I get this huge setback where I am then watching the World Cup in a hospital bed.

“Cancer was not in my mind. It has never been hereditary in my family.

“You never think it is going to be you, and especially because of my lifestyle – being an athlete, caring about my diet, caring about my health. I never thought I would get it.”

Williams completed his treatment in October, before returning to the pitch with Newcastle in January.

A CHANGE OF SCENERY AND JERSEY?

Back playing rugby, Williams is seemingly set to join the Scarlets this summer, having been linked alongside Tyler Morgan last month as a potential arrival in Llanelli.

Morgan has already swapped the Dragons for the Scarlets and it seems likely Williams will follow suit.

For the Scarlets, the move makes total sense. This summer, Hadleigh Parkes, Corey Baldwin and Kieron Fonotia all left Parc y Scarlets.

With a father from north Wales, Williams also qualifies to pull on the red jersey – with that sole appearance against the Barbarians not committing him to England as it was an uncapped match.

So he could soon find himself in Wayne Pivac’s plans.

The centre is already known to Wales, having been identified as a potential midfield option during Warren Gatland’s reign – alongside Marchant, Max Clark and a certain Nick Tompkins.

Given how Pivac had been tracking Tompkins for some time after finding out he was Welsh-qualified while he was still Scarlets coach, there’s a good chance the new Wales coach has a working idea of Williams’ game.

With Parkes’ departure already confirmed and Owen Williams set to follow him to Japan, Pivac will want as many midfield options as possible given centre has been something of a problem position in recent times.

If Williams’ move to the Scarlets does happen, Williams might not have to wait long to swap the red rose for three feathers on his chest.

What a difference a year makes.

This content was originally published here.