Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Williams back just in the nick of time for Anscombe

Kitted out: Robbie Diack, Fiona Hampton (Ulster Rugby's head of sales and marketing), Tommy Bowe, Stephen Ferris and Terry Jackson (director and general manager of Kukri Ireland) celebrate the new five-year sponsorship deal
Kitted out: Robbie Diack, Fiona Hampton (Ulster Rugby's head of sales and marketing), Tommy Bowe, Stephen Ferris and Terry Jackson (director and general manager of Kukri Ireland) celebrate the new five-year sponsorship deal

When watching his Ulster side toil against the Dragons at Rodney Parade last week, searching in vain for a second try that would not come, Mark Anscombe must have yearned for the battering ram-like qualities of Nick Williams to boost his flagging attack.

Thankfully for the head coach his fellow Kiwi is back in the squad for tonight's game against Glasgow Warriors after returning from his homeland where he was dealing with a family matter.

And the former Munster man cannot wait to get his season underway against Gregor Townsend's much-fancied side.

Ahead of the game, he said: "After a long slog in pre-season you always get excited to play. The games are the fun part of rugby so I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to it.

"The family reasons that kept me out last week are done and dusted so I'm 100 per cent focused and raring to get out there."

Such declarations will be welcomed by both coach and fans alike with last season's PRO12 Player of The Year now a vital figure in Anscombe's side.

And despite missing the listless showing in south Wales last Friday, the No.8 remains resolute in his determination to belatedly kick-start Ulster's season against the Warriors.

"Whoever played or didn't play last week, we all feel the brunt of it and are obviously disappointed to lose," said Williams.

"The great thing about rugby this early in the season is that you always have a chance to redeem yourself next week and we'll be out there to right a few of those wrongs from the first game."

If Ulster can produce a win, it will be an impressive statement against a squad who many have tipped for success this year.

They began their campaign with a win at home over Cardiff Blues despite missing their Lions trio of Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland and Ryan Grant and can also boast names such as Sean Maitland and Ruaridh Jackson as well as the familiar face of Tommy Seymour.

Williams is all too aware of the threat posed by last season's PRO12 semi-finalists, but feels that it is just the challenge he and his team-mates need as they look to respond after last week's disappointment.

"They have a very good squad and to play one of the stronger sides in the league is exactly what you want to try and right a few wrongs," said Williams.

"I'm sure Ravenhill will be buzzing come the game and hopefully we pull one out of the hat."

Johann Muller agrees with his fellow-forward's assessment of the visitors, the Ulster captain declaring: "Glasgow are a really tough side and probably the team that has improved most over the last three or four years.

"I think not only this season, but last season and the year before they were a really tough team both home and away and Gregor has done a really fantastic job.

"For us to get back out there at home again, especially in the new atmosphere of the stadium, is something we've been looking forward to.

"We know the support will be as great as always and we're hoping to go out there and give them something to really cheer for."

* ULSTER have signed a new five-year deal with Kukri, their official kit supplier and retailer of the Ravenhill-based rugby shop.

With nearly a full year remaining on the existing contract this commitment to a new agreement, which extends their partnership to 2018-19, confirms the satisfaction both parties have in working with one another.

The new deal will see Kukri continuing to supply top-quality sportswear for Ulster's ever-growing number of fans as well as for the team.

Phil Morris, Kukri group managing director said: "This is great news for us and we are delighted to continue our successful partnership with Ulster.

"Ulster Rugby has continued to go from strength to strength and this deal underlines our commitment to the sport of rugby and the province of Ulster."

Terry Jackson, director and general manager of Kukri Ireland said: "The partnership over the last six years has been very strong; with the redevelopment of Ravenhill and our investment in the new shop we believe the partnership will get stronger and stronger."

Fiona Hampton, Ulster Rugby's head of sales and marketing said: "The kit partnership is one of the most vital within the club in terms of provision of top class performance sportswear and also income.

"The deal with Kukri represents the largest sponsorship deal ever done by the club and takes us to the top four club kit deals within our sport in the UK and Ireland.

"It is based on an excellent working partnership and has the ability to deliver rewards for both parties on hitting mutually agreed objectives. We are delighted to be partnering with such an innovative brand as Kukri, a company that mirrors our ambitions."

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