Belfast Telegraph

Williams ready for Ulster v Leinster

By Michael Sadlier

When you saw him charge at Jamie Elliott and flatten the unfortunate winger from the impact, it seemed that maybe things were going to work out.

It was the same when he later launched a drive round the front of the lineout and then got the ball in his paws again, to try to batter his way over with bodies being swatted aside in typical fashion, only for his surge towards the whitewash to be called upstairs by Nigel Owens where the TMO was able to call it short.

Those were the rather better moments in the Ravenhill version of the Northampton game when Ulster’s fitful performance was also reflected in how Nick Williams managed to play with one crazy charge from an offside position into a maul pretty much summing up his and Ulster’s night.

All-round, it was a real curate’s egg of an effort though all might have gone well last Saturday night had he, and his team-mates, not succumbed to a rather alarming error count in the face of Northampton’s greater ferocity and determination to even things out in their back-to-back Heineken Cup meetings.

It’s now Wednesday and the videos have been watched, the words have been spoken and work has begun in earnest again after last weekend’s first competitive defeat the season.

There is no hiding place and as Williams parks his huge frame in a rather less robust-looking chair, he certainly doesn’t seek shelter as Ulster now bid to ramp things up for Friday’s return to PRO12 action when Leinster — who have been quite a problem over recent times — drop in at Ravenhill to take on the league leaders.

“The video session was quite hard to swallow,” the Kiwi says smiling, “but that’s what it’s like with professional sports, you’ve got to take the good with the bad.

“We had a few good points (against Northampton) but it wasn’t great.

“But such is life and we just need to stand up and take greater responsibility individually and as a team,” the 29-year-old Auckland native states.

The Saints defeat, of course, brought an end to the squad’s much-hyped 13-game winning run which, even though it has removed a bit of a monkey off their backs, still cut deep and now means they have to stay very honest indeed to win Europe’s Pool Four.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the winning run wasn’t in the back of our heads at the time. With all that, comes pressure and, look, it was eventually going to end anyway.

“We all know that it (against the Saints) wasn’t our best performance especially after not being at home for a while and the harder we tried as individuals and a team to correct it the more nothing seemed to stick.

“But the beautiful thing about rugby is now we get another crack and what better team to do it against than the European champions,” Williams states and you get the distinct feeling that, along with most of his team-mates, he has plenty of motivation to have a crack against them.

During both his time at Munster and last season at Aironi, Williams failed to experience what it is like to get the better of Leinster.

In light of their rather poor showings against the southern province — Ulster have only beaten them once over the past eight years and that was back in 2009 — and particularly the way in which things went so spectacularly against Ulster in last May’s Heineken Cup final at Twickenham, this game is one that has been targeted from some way out as a means to setting the record straight.

As Williams points out, “As a team, we had a chat on Tuesday and there are very few around that have ever beaten Leinster.

“For me personally, I lost to them for Munster and then Aironi so it’s one thing I want to try and straighten out.

“We know we didn’t play well last weekend and that is going to play a big part in how we come out against Leinster.”

He has recently found himself having to play as blindside flanker which has prompted some debate on whether Mark Anscombe is getting the best out of Williams and his powerful ball-carrying game by shunting him across the scrum to accommodate Roger Wilson.

Not surprisingly, Williams dodges this one and, unusually for him, is to be found treading softly when invited to run with this ball.

“I love playing number eight and you get to linger around a bit and play a bit looser.

“At six it’s all a bit more tidy and you get to do more grunt work.

“People can say I get to carry the ball a lot more at eight, but I’m happy to get in and do the graft work and let other people get their hands on the ball.

“Just because I’m not getting the ball in my hands doesn’t mean I can’t contribute to the team,” he maintains.

And with that he leaves with the chair still intact and some rather striking parting words, just in case he has failed to get the message across.

“It’s now all about righting the wrongs.

“That’s what we need to do as a team, just to bring some justice to the jersey.

“We’ve got this week to try and redeem ourselves.”

If Ulster can get him striding forward, with ball in hand, then they should do some damage to that blue line.

Belfast Telegraph


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