Ulster drop Williams as AWOL probe is launched
Kiwi Nick Williams' troubles at Ulster appear to be at a crossroads after being pulled out of this week's squad to face the Dragons at Ravenhill.
Last year's Pro12 Player of the Year, is being investigated for alleged absence from training. A brief statement from Ulster Rugby said: "Nick Williams is unavailable for selection for tomorrow night's match against Newport Gwent Dragons due to an internal investigation into alleged unauthorised absence. Ulster Rugby will make no further comment on the matter at this time."
Williams came to Ulster two seasons ago when he joined up with his former coach Mark Anscombe, who had been his mentor at North Harbour in Auckland. At the time, Williams was having difficulty settling in Italy where he was playing for the now disbanded Aironi franchise.
Previously, the barnstorming No 8 also had a mixed time during his two-year stint with Munster, with whom he linked up back in 2008. A calf injury at the start of this season and then a serious knee problem in January, knocked the 30-year-old back and he has subsequently failed to reach the level of performance that he achieved in his first two seasons with Ulster.
Meanwhile, Anscombe says that Ulster will need to up the ante if they are to put one over the Dragons at Ravenhill tomorrow evening following a narrow 14-12 win away to Treviso on Sunday.
"It was unquestionably poor, very poor indeed," said Anscombe. "It is now a matter of sorting it out and, hopefully, we have done that after excellent training this week. We will certainly not get away with that type of performance against the Dragons this week that is for sure, particularly after their win against Glasgow last week.
"Look, all the players know that it was poor, there's no papering over that. The boys are now looking to write their wrongs on Friday night at home," added Anscombe, who still holds hopes of getting Paddy Jackson and Iain Henderson back from the Ireland camp.
"Injury-wise at least, we came out of the Treviso game without any problems. We should know soon who is being released.
"Hopefully, we can get Paddy and maybe Iain as well as they do need a bit of game time with the talk that both Johnny Sexton and Peter O'Mahony are injured, so it would be beneficial for the two boys to get a game."
Anscombe is also a little more hopeful on Tommy Bowe and Stephen Ferris. "Both Tommy and Stephen are looking good. Stephen is running again, although he has not done any physical stuff yet, but it is promising. Tommy, hopefully, will be back soon and certainly before the end of March and the Heineken Cup game," he said.
Ulster will again be without former All Black John Afoa, who is still back in Auckland after close family bereavement. Ricky Lutton will start at tighthead, while Callum Black and Rob Herring will form the remainder of the front-row. In the backs, Academy player Rory Scholes is expected to get his first start on the wing.