Belfast Telegraph

Duncan Williams now making mark with Munster

By David Kelly

For a player with 78 provincial caps to his name, Duncan Williams hasn't always endeared himself to Munster's supporters.

Inconsistent performances coupled with injury problems meant the scrum-half floated in and out of the team but over the last year, a decent run of fitness has seen him grow as a player as well as his reputation.

Williams has copped a lot of flak in his five years since breaking into the first team but there is now a sense he finally feels a sense of belonging.

As he admitted himself in the past, he mentally struggled with some of the criticism that was hurled in his direction but, at 28, he is mature enough to understand how to deal with that.

"There's always going to be the naysayers so I don't really listen or read the papers, I just need to focus on my own game," he says.

"It probably took me a while to realise that and I think, in the last year or so, I've dealt with that and moved on beyond it.

"I always knew I was a good player. Sometimes you don't get the opportunity to show it and sometimes when I did get the opportunity I wasn't 100pc fit. I hadn't done pre-season but I've put two pre-seasons together in the last two years.

"I had done eight years previous without pre-season and I think you go into games straight away and your sole worry is trying to keep up with the play and not the basics of passing the ball, kicking and looking for breaks.

"I think that's helped me big time and that would be the main thing that has helped me improve."

Williams has featured much more prominently in the side this year, which is largely down to his form, but injuries to Cathal Sheridan have also meant that when Conor Murray is away on international duty, the level of competition isn't what it normally is.

Nevertheless, the Cork native has seized his opportunity and his impressive try-scoring performance against Ulster at Thomond Park last month was, arguably, his best in a red jersey, although that isn't something that he goes along with.

He is set to start at scrum-half against Leinster on Friday, when he will again look to enhance his reputation.

"I thought I played quite well (against Ulster) but I wouldn't say it was my best game," he says.

"You score a try and everybody seems to think you've played unbelievably well but I've played better in some games where I haven't scored tries where people haven't spoken so much about me."

The appointment of Brian Walsh as assistant coach was also a huge motivational factor for Williams. The pair previously worked together at Cork Constitution in the AIL and, as Williams explains, Walsh has long been an admirer of his.

"Squeaks (Walsh) rang me when I was coming out of school and asked me to go to go to Con and he rang me the next year in my first year in UCC and asked me to come to Con, and that's always good to know that the coaches have confidence in you," he says.

"I worked with him for a few years and he helped me a good bit. His philosophy really helped me.

"I suppose it was the most enjoyable rugby I played for a good while. He's got a good way of playing the game and a good philosophy."

Belfast Telegraph

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