Rhys Williams became a social media sensation because of his resemblance to Mo Salah, but his own sporting achievements are not to be sniffed at either.
Mo Salah? Rhys Williams has heard it all before.
Now at the age of 30 and boasting plenty of experience at the highest level both domestically and internationally, Williams’ name is one that people involved with Rugby League will most certainly be aware of.
But millions more people outside of the sport have now seen what the winger is capable of after his try against Toronto Wolfpack went viral on social media, with his looks and running style being compared to that of Liverpool Football Club striker Mo Salah.
“When I was at London Broncos, the lads there had been calling me Mo Salah for a long time,” Williams admitted.
“I’m just glad the video of me was when I was scoring a try rather than falling over or something like that.
“Social media went mad, but it’s all in good nature.”
Another thing the two of them have in common is that they’re both prolific finishers.
Williams is currently Wales’ all-time leading try-scorer and joint-top of the list of all-time appearances alongside Jordan James and Ian Watson, who is currently his head coach at Salford Red Devils.
“It’s a proud achievement of mine and, now I’m a bit older, I probably appreciate it a bit more,” he said.
“When I was a bit younger, maybe I didn’t realise how big of an achievement it is to get those records for your country.
“I’m always very proud to play for Wales and I look forward to being involved each year.
“The World Cup always comes around quickly and the one in 2021 will be the third tournament I’ve been
“The last one wasn’t the best from a rugby side of things, but the experience of travelling over to Australia was unbelievable and I know the squad learned a lot from it.
“Over the years, there has always been a focus on Welsh-born players and it’s great to see plenty of lads progressing through the ranks.
“It’s only going to put Welsh Rugby League in good stead and encourage more players to do exactly the same in the future.
“John Kear has been great for the sport in Wales and we’re aiming to have a positive 2021 World Cup.”
Although Williams is now an established player, he had to bide his time earlier on in his career.
After coming through the system at Super League club Warrington Wolves, first-team opportunities were sometimes difficult to come by at the Halliwell Jones Stadium and the winger had loan spells at the likes of the old Crusaders club and Castleford Tigers.
On the back of a season over in Australia with Central Queensland Capras, Williams joined London and soon found his best form.
“Warrington are a really big club and it was hard to get a consistent run in the side,” he said.
“Going over to Australia and playing Rugby League was a fantastic experience for me.
“When I came back to the UK, it was important that I was playing week in, week out and I managed to get that with London.
“It was a great place to go and live. The lifestyle was really good and I was living with some of the other players so you were around your mates all the time.
“Hendo (Andrew Henderson) was there at first and then Wardy (Danny Ward) and Langers (Jamie Langley) came in. They’re all fantastic coaches and it was great to play under them all.”
London surprised many people by securing promotion to Super League in 2018, with Williams playing a key role.
He even reached 150 consecutive appearances in matches that he was able to play in for either club or country. No matter what position you play in, that is no mean feat.
“I’ve been asked a lot what the key has been to playing so many games in a row,” Williams explained.
“Under the strength and conditioning and physio staff at London, I always felt really fit and I think I became a bit more robust.
“When I did have some niggles and I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d be able to play, I managed to get out on the pitch.
“As I’ve got a bit older, I think I’ve managed to get used to my limits and I know what I can and can’t put my body through at certain times.”
The 30-year-old’s consistent performances grabbed the attention of Salford last term, with the 2019 Super League Grand Finalists snapping the winger up ahead of the current campaign.
“It’s been a tough start to the year, but we’re heading in the right direction with our performances,” Williams explained.
“We’re coming out on the wrong end of scorelines at the minute, but that’ll come with time.
“When you get so many people coming into a new system, it doesn’t always click straightaway, but we’ve got a great coach in Watto and what he’s coaching us will soon become second nature.
“It’ll all come together the more we play alongside each other.”
Williams may have been compared to Salah, but that shouldn’t detract from his achievements in his own sport. Holding records for your country and making 150 consecutive appearances certainly aren’t to be knocked.
One thing for sure, though, is that the winger isn’t done there. He’ll most definitely be out to achieve plenty more before his career is out.
This feature was first published in Rugby League World, Issue 468, April 2020