Friday 19 January 2018

'We are playing well but it is still only early January'

Cork scrum-half feels he is improving thanks to increased game time with first team

Duncan Williams is loud in his praise of the Munster management for the manner in which they have set about imposing the game plan Photo: Sportsfile
Duncan Williams is loud in his praise of the Munster management for the manner in which they have set about imposing the game plan Photo: Sportsfile

Daragh Small

Munster's starting scrum-half Conor Murray is in the form of his life at the moment and after he guided Ireland to their first ever victory over the All Blacks, there is talk that he could even go on to captain the British & Irish Lions in 2017.

He has been sensational for his province too, but fellow No 9 Duncan Williams is the unsung hero as he continues to hit new heights of form and fitness. Williams has featured in 15 of his side's 17 games so far this term, and has been regarded as one of Munster most improved performers.

The 30-year-old Corkonian is one of the contingent who decided to stay put when Munster made their move to the new High Performance Centre at UL at the beginning of this season.

And the Cork Con clubman says it's essential that the province continue to be represented in as many counties as possible, with Limerick and Cork two of the hotbeds of rugby in Ireland and Munster.

Williams is in his eighth season as part of the Munster senior set-up, after making his debut in 2009-'10, but he knows how crucial it is that Munster continue to go back to their roots.

"I am still living in Cork. There is a few of us living down here. We travel up to Limerick on a Monday, stay a couple of nights and then come back down on the Wednesday," says Williams.

"I am not too bothered by it. It is important for Munster Rugby that there is still a presence in Cork. It's great that the one centre is there, but Munster is the six counties and it is important to have a presence in a few other areas rather than just Limerick."

Once again the Douglas native came on as a replacement for Murray in the 66th minute of their magnificent 32-7 victory over reigning Top 14 champions Racing 92 at Stade Yves-du-Manoir last weekend.

That bonus-point win put them top of Pool 1 in the Champions Cup and they have their European fate in their own hands as they make the journey to Scotstoun for a massive clash with Glasgow Warriors tomorrow.

It has been an impressive but difficult few months since former coach Anthony Foley passed away in Paris last October and the team have rallied together valiantly.

Williams is to the forefront of Munster's drive towards silverware in 2017, and he owes his consistency to the amount of game-time he has been entrusted with.

"I am delighted to be involved in the games. I just want to play as many games as possible, whether that is on the bench or starting I am happy.

Involved

"Compared to last year when I wasn't involved in many games. This year is completely different, I have been involved in every game so far so I am happy out.

"It's just like any other player, the more games you get the better you play in the coming weeks. It's difficult if you get the one game and then you are out for the next few weeks, or if you play a game and you are only on for about ten minutes.

"The more games you get on the trot the better your performances will become and that is the same with any player across the pitch.

"I am always looking to improve every aspect of my game. But my kicking would have been an issue for a few years. I need to keep that going in the right direction. It has made a bit of jump in the last two seasons so I am looking to keep that going.

"If things keep going the way they are, I have a few more years left in me, so hopefully I will manage to seal another contract."

Munster have won ten of their last 11 games, but it has been a strange experience for all involved and Williams believes the coaching staff deserve many of the plaudits, while the move to the new centre in Limerick has also helped the team connect better as a unit.

"We are going quite well. We went a good few games without losing and unfortunately lost to Leicester over there. But the mood is good, training is good and people are bouncing in the door every Monday morning, so it's a good place to be at the moment.

"Being at the one centre makes a big difference. We are together for three consecutive days and we are on the pitch four times a week.

"We get to iron out any potential kinks that might have been there. Before we might have only seen each other twice a week and that face-time makes all the difference. The atmosphere is good at the moment.

"The coaching team are very clear in what they want us to do. The strategy is there for us and we just need to go and implement it. They gave us licence to do it and we go and play. If not we put the ball down and go from there.

"There is no restrictions, they have an idea, but if you see something then you go for it and they support you to do that."

Williams is in the final semester of a Master's in Business at CIT presently, and as his province look towards the final chapter of 2017, it promises to be fruitful even if the players don't acknowledge it.

"I was in the extended squad when we won the Pro12 a few years ago. But it would be great to win something especially with the season that is in it, and Axel passing away. It would be great to honour him," says Williams.

"We are not getting ahead of ourselves, we are playing well, but it is still only early January. There is still a long way to go in the season and a lot of rugby to be played. We are just keeping the heads down and going the way we are."

Irish Independent

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