Sunday 4 December 2016

The Big interview: Duncan Williams - Hunger to get better every day drives Cork scrum-half

One of four No 9s, Williams is ready to battle it out for extended game-time with home team

Daragh Small

Published 04/12/2015 | 02:30

Duncan Williams: ‘A success for me is getting a medal at the end of the season’
Duncan Williams: ‘A success for me is getting a medal at the end of the season’

From a personal perspective, Duncan Williams had the dream year in 2014-'15, with 23 appearances and two tries for Munster as well as a contract renewal to top it off.

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However, the province have gone another season without silverware to back up some impressive performances on the field.

Now with extra competition for his scrum-half berth, the 29-year-old Cork man, who is studying for a master's in Business at Cork IT, has had to reinvent his game. A Pro12 final re-appearance won't cut it for Munster this year, unless they lift their first trophy since 2011. While in Europe they have a crucial block of games against Leicester just around the corner, and that could decide their fate.

However, Williams has done all that he can to ensure he plays his part in Munster's revival, and despite a disappointing defeat to Connacht in his 86th Pro12 cap he sees a bright future for his home province.

Munster are third in the league, and with huge competition for every position throughout the squad, Williams had to prove himself again in pre-season.

"We sit down with the coaches at the start of the year. Kicking was identified as an area where I can improve. It was just a matter of picking up the extra sessions.

"I had a recovery day on a Wednesday so I used to go down to the pitch and do a bit of kicking there, and then again after every pitch session.

"It's hard in pre-season after those squad sessions, they are long days and then you do fitness at the end of it. Then they are ushering you off the pitch for recovery. So it is all about choosing your moments.

"Ian Costello is the man you go to for the kicking. And the scrum-halves work with Greg Oliver as well. He does the passing and kicking with us. It's good to have those resources there.

"I usually do passing with Greg two or three times a week. It's great to have him around, he is one of the best for working on your passing, your techniques and your foot placement."

The Douglas native is now in his seventh season playing with the senior side, but he still hasn't got a chance to get comfortable.

The key to success in all winning sides is a squad with depth of quality, and with Conor Murray, Tomás O'Leary and Cathal Sheridan for company, Munster have serious talent vying for the No 9 jersey.

Challenge

When it was announced that O'Leary was set to return from London Irish at the start of this season, Williams saw it as a challenge, and he wants to have a big say again this season.

"Competition makes everyone that bit better. You are striving and you are pushing each other for that position.

"I know Tomás well enough, we would have played together in school in CBC before we were in here. It is good to see him back, he is a good character.

"When Conor got back from the World Cup the next week they decided to go with Tomás as the number two. Myself and Cathal had to go and play in the 'A' games in order to get a few matches under our belts, but we will get our chance again."

In 2014-'15 Ireland international Murray only played 15 games for the province and that left the door open for Williams to stake his claim.

He didn't disappoint and with the consistent run of games, he grew into his role as a conductor and thrived on the responsibility - in February he was rewarded with a two-year contract extension.

"It was the most game-time I had in my whole career, between injuries and all of that. I ended up being involved in all of the matches, and started the majority of them. I was hoping to get similar game-time this year, but so far it hasn't happened.

"Players benefit from consistency. The more matches you play every week the better you get, and the more comfortable you feel at that level, and it kicks on from there. When you are getting one week in and out two weeks it is stop-start, and it is hard to get that momentum going.

"It is always good to get the contract extension. You don't have to work in an office for another two years anyway. It is always good, it reflected the performances that I put in through that season. It was good to get it signed in February, get it out of the way, and focus on the rest of the season."

The former CBC student wants to help restore Munster to past glories. He knows the talent is there, and he wants to be a key component of unlocking that potential in 2015-'16.

"With Munster we want to be winning three competitions that we are involved in. You have got to put your personal disappointment aside if you are not involved. You still want the organisation to do well.

"A success for me, and any other player would say the same, is getting a medal at the end of the season.

"Munster had a lot of injuries last year and they were all to front-line players. It was the first season for a new coach as well. We were building something having to cope with a big turnover of players.

"We have still a pretty young squad too. I think myself and Denis Hurley are the two oldest backs this season. It just shows there is a lot of young talent coming through.

"It is just a matter of getting those guys through, and unfortunately it didn't work out last season. But I think we will see the benefits from it this season."

Irish Independent

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