Taylor backs centre rivals

He may have missed out to them in the battle for the centre spots in the Six Nations but Mark Taylor has backed Welsh team-mates Gavin Henson and Tom Shanklin to roar for the British & Irish Lions this summer. [more]

Lions Australia Tour 2013

He may have missed out to them in the battle for the centre spots in the Six Nations but Mark Taylor has backed Welsh team-mates Gavin Henson and Tom Shanklin to roar for the British & Irish Lions this summer.

A veteran of the 2001 tour to Australia, Taylor contemplated retirement after the 2003 World Cup but was enjoying his rugby too much to quit, especially as he was on the verge of 50 caps for Wales.

He bears no grudge towards rising stars Henson and Shanklin for taking his place, however, especially as he got his chance to join in Wales’ Six Nations Grand Slam celebrations on Saturday with a late call-up on the wing.

Last-minute injuries to both Rhys Williams and Hal Luscome paved the way for Taylor’s 49th – and probably most memorable – game in a Welsh shirt and he was more than happy to gatecrash the party.

"I knew on Friday afternoon I would be starting. I wouldn’t say I was mentally ready for it (playing on the wing) until about half past five on Saturday!" Taylor claimed.

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"If you look at the (Wales) centre spots, I think Gavin Henson and Tom Shanklin both deserve to go with the Lions this summer as a pair, because they’ve been superb."

"When I first started playing club rugby at Pontypool, I probably had a season on the wing. Before Saturday, my biggest game as a wing would have been when Nigel Walker (former Olympic sprint hurdler) was first on the scene.

"My third or fourth game for Pontypool, I actually played against him. I think I just tackled Nigel every time the ball touched the scrum-half’s hands!

"It all feels a bit surreal, really, and it has been a truly bizarre season.

"Last December, I was in hospital with an eye problem, wondering if I would play again. I’ve since played two games and I had 30 minutes in the IRB Tsunami match last month, and then I started for Wales on the wing in a Grand Slam match," he added.

"It has been an odd season, but then again, I don’t think I would change things now. It is probably the sweetest moment of my life to be part of a Grand Slam team.

"Retirement had crossed my mind a while ago, after the last World Cup, but the way the professional game is going, you keep yourself so fit, it just seems silly to retire when you are still feeling great.

"When you are right physically – and mentally, I still feel quite fresh – I just think I will hang around and see what happens. They will have to retire me, rather than me retire.

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