When Lloyd Williams runs out at Parc y Scarlets tomorrow with a No.9 on his back, in many ways, it will be the end of a long road.

As he makes his first Wales start in over four years, it will be an acknowledgement of the daily effort that has gone into resurrecting an international career that appeared to be over.

Way back in 2011, as a 21-year-old, Williams went to the World Cup with Wales and featured in three matches, despite having just one cap to his name before the tournament.

He helped Wales win the 2012 Grand Slam and the 2013 Six Nations before featuring in all five matches at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

His 28th Test match came against Japan in 2016 but there would be a four-year wait for his 29th, which came against Scotland last month.

Williams was being lined up as Mike Phillips’ successor but the emergence of Rhys Webb and Gareth Davies saw him left out of the cold.

Rarely did he get near a Wales squad until Webb picked up a knee injury against France in October, opening the door that, in the eyes of many, appeared to be locked shut.

Cardiff Blues boss John Mulvihill has been working with the now 30-year-old since he arrived in the Welsh capital in 2018, at the height of Williams’ international hiatus.

“On my first day at the club, I met Lloyd and asked him: ‘What are your goals, mate?’” Said Mulvihill.

“He told me that he still wanted to get back in and play international rugby. That was his burning desire in 2018.

“Lloyd always trains hard and he deserves what he gets but particularly after this Covid period, he came back a completely different person.

“He’s so strong mentally and has a desire to achieve his goal, which was to get back in a red jersey.

“Nobody deserves it more than him. He’s a really good role model for some of our players that are on the fringe, that could possibly get too focused on selection and not do the work.

“There are two types of players – selection focused and development focused.

“If you’re always focused on selection and you continually don’t get picked, it’s because you’re not doing your fundamentals and your development work.

“Lloyd just shut up and got on with it. He worked very hard on a lot of different parts of his game.”

“Then when the door opens, you go into the Wales camp and they understand how hard you work, they see how good you can be up close, then it opens another door.

“He deserves it and I hope he goes really well.”

Quietly, Williams has now accrued over 200 appearances for the Cardiff Blues, making him one of the most experienced players in the Welsh game.

His critics have beaten him with the stick of pragmatism in recent years, accusing him of being too ready to kick the ball away.

It’s a notion that is at odds with the young livewire that burst on to the scene in 2009 and fizzed from breakdown to breakdown.

Blues boss Mulvihill believes that the newfound balance in his game is what gives him the edge of his rivals and has earned him a start in a huge game, not only for Wales, but for under-fire head coach Wayne Pivac.

“Out of all the nines [in the Welsh squad], he’s the more balanced one,” insisted Mulvihill.

“He can run but he might choose not to. He can kick very well off both feet – long, short or high.

“You saw when he came on against Ireland, how quick he was to the ball and people forget about that.

“When he first came on the scene, he was really quick around the base and could linebreak.

“He went against that a little bit when the game became quite defensive and he developed his kicking game.

“Now he’s marrying up a little bit of both and hopefully you’ll see that on the weekend.”

Wales boss Wayne Pivac added: "We just think that it’s reward for the effort Lloyd has put in. He’s come in and done everything that has been asked of him.

"It’s been about speed to the breakdown. When he’s been on the park, we’ve played some of our best rugby, so he gets an opportunity there."

A constant source of frustration throughout the autumn for Pivac has been the speed at which his scrum-halves have been arriving at the breakdown.

Lloyd Williams is set to start for Wales against England on Saturday

Williams was thrown on a second half replacement against Ireland and his arrival on the scene coincided with Wales playing their best rugby of the match.

It was undeniable that he lifted the tempo.

It’s something he is able to do as a result of the relentless work that goes in off the field, making him the fittest player in the Cardiff Blues squad and it has been that way for some time.

“Easily, he would still be the fittest,” insisted Mulvihll.

“The only player who would probably get close is our young No.9 Jamie Hill. He came back in fantastic condition.

“Lloyd is completely different.

“We live in the same street. I’d go home from training and park the car up near the park. I’m getting out of the car at 5:30pm and he’s heading past me to go for a run.

“I said: ‘Mate, what are you doing?’ and he replied: ‘I just need to get that little bit extra in the legs’.

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“That could be after a double session day. It just goes to show some of the things he does.

“He’s a real professional on and off the field. He’s thrown himself into his studying – he’s doing an MBA at the moment – so he’s got a real focus in other areas outside of rugby as well.

“I think that’s helping him get a really good balance on game day.”

There is something wonderfully unfussy about the way Williams has played in recent weeks and it has caught the eye of the coaches.

He gets to the breakdown and gets the ball away.

But the mild-mannered, softly-spoken No.9 is also a cool hand, a steadying influence in the most frantic of environments.

Saturday will be the biggest Test of his career for many a year.

However, he’s worked tirelessly to find his way back to the international arena and now it’s up to him to make the most of it.