Six Nations 2024: Liam Williams ready to watch Wales from sidelines as he settles into Japan life

Liam Williams in action for Wales during his 89th international in the World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina

Guinness Six Nations 2024: Wales v Scotland

Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff Date: Saturday, 3 February Kick-off: 16:45 GMT

Coverage: Live on BBC One, S4C, BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru & live text on the BBC Sport website and app. Highlights on Scrum V, Sunday, BBC Two Wales and online, 4 February and later on demand

Liam Williams would normally be preparing for the Six Nations at this time of year.

But for the first time since 2014, the full-back is not involved in Wales' plans for the tournament. Instead he will, for the most part, be 6,000 miles away, in Tokyo, after signing for Kubota Spears.

His move to Japan made him unavailable for the Six Nations, so he was merely an interested observer when head coach Warren Gatland unveiled his new-look squad.

Williams, 32, says he immediately contacted uncapped Cardiff full-back Cameron Winnett and congratulated new skipper Dafydd Jenkins.

"It was a bit strange," said Williams.

"I have just played in my third World Cup and 12 years in international rugby is a long time.

"I am happy for the young boys coming through. There's always going to be a time after a World Cup where a squad is picked looking forward to the next one and it's time to move on.

"It is the perfect time to get those boys involved. It's a bit of a step up. If you are picked you and stick on the red jersey, you turn into someone else."

Williams and Leigh Halfpenny, who retired from international rugby after the World Cup and signed for New Zealand side Crusaders, have been permanent fixtures battling it out the number 15 jersey for more than a decade.

So there will be a new full-back running out in Cardiff against Scotland on 3 February, with the options including switching Josh Adams from the wing or selecting Winnett, Cai Evans, Tom Rogers or Ioan Lloyd.

The heir apparent to the position was destined to be Louis Rees-Zammit until his shock announcement he was quitting rugby to try and crack the NFL.

"I've known Zam for a few years and every off-season he's been in America training," said Williams.

"It's one of his dreams. He was always talking about the NFL and went to the games in London.

"He's 22, if he goes out there for three or four years and doesn't make it, he's still going be able to come back and play rugby.

"It's a choice he's made and I wish him all the best and look forward to watching him play in a Super Bowl."

Louis Rees-Zammit scored a hat-trick against Georgia in the World Cup
Louis Rees-Zammit scored a hat-trick against Georgia in the World Cup

Williams has not given up on international rugby, indicating he is free for the summer tour in Australia, if required, as he looks to add to his 89 Wales caps.

"I'm still available," said Williams.

"I will always want to put that famous red jersey on for as long as I am playing.

"I did speak to Gats just before I left about going on the summer tour.

"He said he is going to be looking for some of the youngsters, which is what's happened in this Six Nations squad, and that is good for Wales.

"If any other players get injured and I am needed this summer, I will speak to him again."

Having also played in five British and Irish Lions Tests against New Zealand and South Africa, Williams has not given up hope of completing a clean sweep by touring Australia 2025.

It is a squad which will be led by Ireland boss Andy Farrell who was the Lions defence coach in 2013 and 2017.

"I would still like to go," said Williams.

"I don't personally think I would make a Test team at this moment in time with guys in my position like Freddie Steward and Hugo Keenan, who are probably two of the best at the moment.

"Who says I couldn't go and play in the midweek and train against the boys, and help them prepare for the for the big games? You need quite a big squad.

"I worked well with Andy in New Zealand in 2017. So it would be a dream to play again for the Lions whether that's in midweek, or maybe get another Test. We'll see. I think it also depends if I play for Wales."

You sense Williams is hoping his most recent international memory does not end up being his last following World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina in Marseille in October 2023.

"It was tough to take, I still think about it," said Williams.

"We should never have lost that game. I don't regret anything but wish things had turned different.

"Saying that, we were pretty banged up and we might have struggled to field a side the following week against New Zealand."

Williams was one of the players injured and had a knee operation which delayed his Japan club debut.

He will spend two seasons in Japan and is settling into his new life where he shares lifts to training with former New Zealand hooker Dane Coles and Australia fly-half Bernard Foley.

Liam Williams and Dane Coles played in the World Cup before joining Kubota Spears
Liam Williams (right) and Dane Coles (left) played in the World Cup before joining Kubota Spears

With a mini-break in the Spears' fixture calendar, Williams has popped back to Wales for a few days before he is due to return to Japan to continue his season.

"I'm enjoying it at the moment," said Williams.

"It is a long way from Swansea! Personally, it was just a bit of a lifestyle change.

"I was getting on a bit and there was quite a lot going on with the the WRU (Welsh Rugby Union) and the regions."

One player who has not ended up joining Williams in Japan is Wales fly-half Gareth Anscombe, whose contract was cancelled by Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath because of a groin injury.

"I am gutted for him," said Williams.

"I know he and his family were looking forward to coming out here, so it's a sad one."

Williams finds himself playing in a league alongside some of the best players on the planet.

They include South Africa World Cup winners Cheslin Kolbe, Faf de Klerk, Jesse Kriel, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Damian de Allende and New Zealand trio Beauden Barrett, Richie Mounga and Aaron Smith.

"Training here is probably a bit harder than back home, more running anyway," said Williams.

"I think the game's a bit faster here and maybe more frantic.

"The crowds are always packed and they're always chanting and love the games."

Learning the language remains the most challenging aspect of the move.

"We've got two translators at training, one for the forwards and one for backs," said Williams.

"I have learned as much I can at the moment and have weekly lessons.

"I am struggling a bit at the supermarket because I can't read Japanese and Google translate has come in handy over the last couple of weeks.

"It's tough but I can only do my best to learn. That is what I am doing."