Williams signs Ulster contract for team 'going in the right direction'
Nick Williams' acceptance of a two-year contract extension has given Ulster a significant boost with the start of the Heineken Cup now just eight days away.
With the contracts of all four of their overseas stars – captain Johann Muller, fellow-South African Ruan Pienaar, New Zealander John Afoa and fellow-antipodean Williams – expiring at the end of the current season, Ulster will be hoping the big back row forward's acceptance of a new deal which will see him remain at Ravenhill until the end of the 2015-16 campaign sends out the right message.
Since arriving at the start of 2012-13, Williams has surpassed expectations for, in light of disappointing spells with Munster and now-defunct Italian franchise, Aironi, there was little to suggest that Ulster had signed a player who would prove to be a massively significant capture. Head coach Mark Anscombe deserves much of the credit for Williams' arrival at Ravenhill, for having worked with him at youth-level back in the pair's native Auckland, he was convinced that the 29-year-old former Junior All Black could do a vital job in a situation where he felt comfortable.
Williams has repaid the faith Anscombe and Ulster placed in him, emerging as an awesome ball-carrier with an eye for the try-line. Seven man of the match awards culminated in him lifting the RaboDirect PRO12 Players' Player of the Season and the Irish Rugby Union Players Association's Player of the Year.
"It's always nice to stay where you're happy. My family and I have settled really well and it means I can go out and enjoy myself on the pitch.
"Everything has fallen into place and I wouldn't want to play anywhere else to be honest," said Williams, who believes he has committed himself to a team going in the right direction.
"We're very excited for this season. The core of the group from last season is still here and, after a few injuries last season, we've got boys coming back in who are now 100 per cent," he said.
"When you play the game you want to win silverware. We lost in the PRO12 final last year and it was very tough to take.
"Departing at the quarters in the Heineken Cup was gut- wrenching as well so I guess there's some unfinished business. It's a stronger squad now and hopefully we will have a better season."
David Humphreys, Ulster's Director of Rugby who negotiated the contract extension, expressed his delight at having got his man.
"Nick's level of performance throughout last season was instrumental to Ulster finishing top of the RaboDirect PRO12 and extending his contract for another two years is a huge boost to everyone associated with Ulster Rugby," he enthused.
"He is a genuine entertainer and is someone who possesses the ability to inspire the players around him and get the crowd on their feet.
"Off the field, he's a tremendous personality to have around the dressing room and I'm delighted he's committed to Ulster until 2016."