Wednesday 23 May 2018

'It drives me forward. I don't want to be losing my place'

The Big Interview: Duncan Williams

Duncan Williams has been busy on and off the pitch this season
Duncan Williams has been busy on and off the pitch this season

Daragh Small

With 16 games for Munster under his belt this season, Duncan Williams has been kept busy from the playing side of things.

But he also finished off a masters in business recently, is about get his head around the much-vaunted QFAs, and has plans to take a break in Marrakesh with his wife Ciara.

The postponement of this evening's game in Edinburgh will mean changes to the schedule but Williams is used to it after nearly a decade of service to his native province.

It has been hectic, especially since the festive period elapsed, Conor Murray departed for Irish camp, and it became a straight shoot-out between Williams and new recruit James Hart for the Munster scrum-half slot.

"There is always time for me to get a few matches. It's nice for a few of the younger lads who don't get game-time, normally at this time of the year it's usually our chance to show what we can do," says Williams.

"With Johann (van Graan) coming in, he hasn't seen much of us. When he came in it was around the time of the European Cup and inter-provincial games. It's nice to get a good few games out of this now.

"Since I have been at Munster there has always been one or two of the Irish scrum-halves who have been here since I have been here. There is always competition at scrum-half in Munster.

"I am a stubborn man at the best of times and it's something that drives me forward. I don't want to be losing my place."

The 31-year-old Douglas native has played 152 times and scored six tries for Munster since his debut way in the 2009-'10.

Many scrum-halves have come and gone since, but he and Murray have remained constant, and Williams has always looked to improve on his fundamental skills.

"My kicking was always a work-on for me personally. My percentages are a bit up this year, and they were a bit up last year from the year before as well. So as long as it keeps going in an upward curve I will be delighted," adds Williams.

"But all of the basics, your defence, one-on-one tackles and passing. The passing is always something you focus on and it always improves."

Williams began his Munster career with four league appearances in 2009-'10, but then he gradually became a crucial part of the squad over time.

The Corkonian was always a big rugby fan, and therefore he has looked at other scrum-halves in the game, and what they have done to get the most out of their game.

Cheering

He started out going to games with his father and brother, but even to this day Williams still catches up on as much rugby as possible as long as it doesn't clash with his commitments for the province.

And when Ireland are playing in the Six Nations Williams is cheering them on, with a keen eye inevitably on the No 9 jersey, to see how his long-time team-mate is getting on.

"You are always looking at all of the best players in the world, seeing what they do and what can you pick up," he says.

"You take it for granted that Conor is going to be one of the best players on the pitch. In the Six Nations he went down there against Wales and thankfully he got back up.

"Munster are a stronger team with Conor in it and so are Ireland as well of course. You see things he is doing and try and bring it into your own game. But growing up I was always a bit of a rugby nerd. I would have gone to a lot of games with my dad and my brother.

"But now I am still the same, I try and watch as many matches as I can. Sometimes our games interfere with that."

Munster held firm for a brilliant 21-10 victory over Conference 'A' leaders Glasgow Warriors at Irish Independent Park last weekend.

It cut the deficit at the top of the standings for Munster, but most importantly it kept Van Graan's side out of reach from the chasing Cheetahs behind.

After Munster take on the reigning PRO12 champions, it will all be set up for an enormous Champions Cup quarter-final against French heavyweights Toulon at Thomond Park on March 31.

But Munster have experienced this against Toulon in Europe, and so has Williams, before the French won the first of their three European Cups.

Williams came on as a replacement for Peter Stringer when Munster secured a brilliant 45-18 bonus-point victory over a fancied Toulon on October 16, 2010 in Limerick.

Munster lost to them later in the competition, but they showed they still could compete against the very best in Europe.

It is all strictly positive under new coaches again this year, and Williams is delighted to have the legendary club coming to Limerick for another massive battle.

"I played against Toulon last time when we got that bonus point in Thomond Park," says Williams.

"It was great to get on the pitch and play against some of the greats of the game.

"George Smith was there at the time, Pierre Mignoni, Jonny Wilkinson, Felipe Contepomi. It was a great experience.

"And they still have an all-star team. Whoever plays for them it will be a tough game for us in Thomond Park.

"They are the games you want to be involved in."

Irish Independent

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