Sunday 22 April 2018

Ali Williams: Leinster don't have any weaknesses, we haven't thought of three-in-a-row bid

Ali Williams of Toulon dives over to score a last minute try during the European Rugby Champions Cup quarter final match between RC Toulon and Wasps at the Felix Mayol Stadium but should he have been on the pitch
Ali Williams of Toulon dives over to score a last minute try during the European Rugby Champions Cup quarter final match between RC Toulon and Wasps at the Felix Mayol Stadium but should he have been on the pitch

World Cup winner Ali Williams insists Toulon are not being distracted by the possibility of making European rugby history this season.

Victory over Leinster in Marseille on Sunday would leave Toulon one win away from completing a European title hat-trick.

During 19 seasons of the Heineken Cup, which has been succeeded this season by the European Champions Cup, no team have been crowned champions three years in succession.

Leicester won two on the bounce in 2001 and 2002, and Leinster did it in 2011 and 2012, but a treble eluded both of them.

Toulon, though, are edging closer towards achieving that feat, having retained European silverware by defeating Saracens in last season's final 12 months after seeing off fellow French heavyweights Clermont Auvergne at Dublin's Aviva Stadium.

If the form guide holds true this weekend, then Toulon and Clermont should book a European final rematch at Twickenham on May 2, but ex-New Zealand All Blacks lock Williams is adamant that such an enticing possibility is currently not being considered.

"We do believe that every time we go on to the field that we are going to win," he said.

"But we know that Leinster are a good outfit - you just have to look at their results in the past to see that.

"Leinster have a good pack - they have that physicality and are well-organised and drilled. They are a team that likes to attack and they don't have any weaknesses, really.

"They will have learned from our game in the quarter-final last year (Toulon won 29-14) and will know more about how we play.

"It won't be a lot different from when we last met. It's going to be 15 people on either side fighting it out and battling to make inches.

"The three-in-a-row thing in Europe hasn't come to the front of our brains - that is for the people on the outside who don't have the ability to have an impact on the result on the field.

"We are just doing the old rugby thing of taking one game at a time.

"It was a bonus for me coming over to Europe to play, and I consider myself very lucky to be playing in a team with so many great players and characters.

"We all have this respect for each other, and it just seems to work.

"Once you have that competitive streak in your blood, you never lose it. We are a group of guys who love having fun and who love winning."

Williams, 33, will retire from rugby at the end of this season and plans on moving to London with his family, but the path he trod two years ago, leaving New Zealand for French rugby, continues being followed.

Current All Blacks stars Dan Carter, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu and Colin Slade will make post-World Cup moves to France next season, while Charles Piutau joins Guinness PRO12 side Ulster from July 2016 and lock Jeremy Thrush is heading to Gloucester.

"It's inevitable that more and more players are going to come over here," added Williams, who announced his Test rugby retirement before joining Toulon in 2013.

"I am a true Kiwi and I love southern hemisphere and All Black rugby, but after being over here and experiencing what you have - both on the field and off the field - it's an amazing rugby environment.

"Looking at the reality of life and where it has gone, rugby is an opportunity, but it is also a career, so they have to make the most of it.

"The decision whether to stay with international rugby or move for financial reasons is always going to be there.

"How do you stop that? I don't know. Do you want to stop it? I don't know.

"But a solution needs to be found for it because you don't want all this movement from players to ruin international rugby because, at the end of the day, that is what holds rugby as so unique in terms of the sporting environment."

Online Editors

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