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Williams has total belief he can fill boots of superstar Murray

 

By David Kelly

Great deeds and genuine expression can make a man stand out from the crowd.

Most of us, sadly, try to think and act the same way just because everyone else thinks and acts the same way.

Perhaps today, though, people may start to change the way they feel about Duncan Williams. Except he will never have to change the way he feels about himself.

Where others see uncertainty, he sees only surety. He trusts himself and it is clear that those who matter trust him also. In a team sport, that is all that matters. What happens inside the tent.

Asked what Williams might bring to a Munster side shorn the best scrum-half in the world in Conor Murray, his coach, Rassie Erasmus, was forthright in his summation.

"Well, 31 years old," he began, matter-of-factly. "Experience. How many games has he played for us, just this season? How many try-saving tackles?

"For me, I have said it a few times, he is one of our unsung heroes. People differ.

"I see him at video sessions… on and off the field he is really exceptional. And his knowledge about the game is really top-notch. He will put up a good show and I really have confidence in him."

And the player has enough of the stuff too. Yet such conviction has not always been widely shared within the community he has served for nigh on 13 years.

Williams bookends Munster's 21st century story.

He was lucky to emerge at a province who would dominate Europe, becoming absorbed in the culture that drove them to the pinnacle of the game, but also unlucky to coincide with their gradual decline.

He is part of the furniture now - "I'm nearly the oldest fella around here," he smiles - but although the son of Cork has made 132 appearances for his province, his loyalty has not been unilaterally reciprocated.

Doubts have trailed him like a persistent early morning mist.

Less than a month ago, as Munster prepared for their first quarter-final in three seasons against the greatest European side of them all, Toulouse, heightened concerns about Murray's fitness had persisted and were confirmed on the morning of the game.

The ripples of concern that had permeated through the province all week now cascaded towards a veritable earthquake of anxiety. As he had done so many times before, Williams took it all in his stride.

"A large majority were panicking that I had to play, not within the squad but supporters," says Williams baldly, albeit without any sense of rancour, just realism.

"We just want to give a good account of ourselves."

Williams could be describing himself, not just Munster.

"They're probably ahead of where we are in terms of the long-term plan," he admits.

"We're only building for seven months. They've been building this for seven years."

In some ways, so has Duncan Williams.

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