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 By PA Sport

Wales boss Ryan Giggs defends 'brilliant' Ashley Williams amid struggles

Ryan Giggs has backed "brilliant" Ashley Williams to bounce back from a difficult season at Everton after retaining the defender as his Wales captain.

Williams has been heavily criticised for his club performances this season and is currently serving a domestic ban after being sent off in Everton's recent Premier League defeat at Burnley.

But new Wales boss Giggs has shown his faith in the veteran centre-back by handing him the armband at the China Cup this week.

"Everton have had a change of manager and new ideas have come in,'' Giggs said when asked about Williams' indifferent form at Goodison Park.

"But all I can really gauge are Ash's performances for Wales and they have been fantastic.

"It is like a lot of the players, they seem to just go on to that next level when they play for Wales.

"That is all I'll be looking at. I have had several chats with him and he has been a tremendous captain for Wales.

Ashley Williams has been heavily criticised for his club performances at Everton.

"The club form for some of the players might not be what it is for Wales, but when they come away with us I want them to perform.''

Williams, who forged his reputation at Swansea before joining Everton in 2016, was appointed Wales captain by Giggs' predecessor Chris Coleman in October 2012.

The 33-year-old was a hugely influential figure in Wales' rise under Coleman and led the side during their historic run to the Euro 2016 semifinals in France.

But Williams has been below his best during a season of turmoil at Everton, making several high-profile mistakes, and his frustration was evident when he was sent off for lashing out at Burnley striker Ashley Barnes two weeks ago.

"He came down to meet me and all the staff,'' Giggs said ahead of his first games as Wales manager.

"It was the day after he got sent off, so it was great for him to come down.

"I've been a player and if you lose the game a day before, and you've got stuff to do the day after, you don't feel like doing it.

"I was delighted for him to come down and spend a few hours with all the staff.

"I did say to him: 'You need games now!' and he laughed at that. He has been brilliant with me.''

Giggs' bow as Wales manager comes at the China Cup, a four-team tournament which will be played in the southern Chinese city of Nanning.

Wales will play the hosts on Thursday before being involved in either a third-place game or a final against the Czech Republic or Uruguay the following Monday.

"The trip gives us the chance to get a feel of the players,'' Giggs said.

"And Ash is a big part of that.''

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