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Nick Williams is thrilled to be back for Ulster

By Jonathan Bradley

For a man who relishes the rough and tumble of professional rugby, we can only imagine how much Nick Williams was anticipating his first big hit of the year against the Ospreys last weekend.

Charged with striking Rhys Patchell during Ulster's win over Cardiff Blues all the way back in March, the Kiwi missed the province's subsequent run to the semi-finals of the PRO12 and was only eligible to return to action on September 1.

While his July wedding and the ensuing visit of an extended Williams clan kept the burly back-rower occupied, the frustration of a long spell on the sidelines was still keenly felt and the 31-year-old charged into the season opener with customary abandon.

A presence at the breakdown, even if he was displeased with the penalty count against him, it was his carrying game that indicated he hadn't missed a beat, hurtling into contact and providing an instrumental contribution to his side's first score of the campaign.

"The lungs certainly felt like I'd been away," Williams chuckled. "It was just good to be back.

"It sure was an extra, extra, extra long pre-season for me so it was good to get back out there with the boys in front of a stadium that goes crazy for us."

On his punishment, which he described as being on the naughty step, Williams remains reflective despite the regrettable nature of the incident.

"It's part and parcel really," he said. "You just have to accept whatever happens; you can't change anything about it.

"I got married this summer, so in hindsight that was a silver lining over everything.

"I got my family over, was able to show them where my daughter is growing up, and from that point of view it kind of took the edge off the ban.

"I got the body back into good nick and got over those little niggles, the kind of things that you can only put right with a bit of a break.

"It was a long summer, if that's what we call it here, but it gave me a chance to get a few things sorted body-wise and off the field.

"I was quite happy with how it went on Friday, even if the body was telling me differently. I was in a world of pain the next day, but it was all worth it in the end.

"The boys just played brilliantly so it was a good day to be involved with Ulster Rugby."

The energy that Williams brought to the contest was cited this week by Andrew Trimble as something that the team can feed off moving forward.

"I guess you have to play every game like it's your last," said Williams, the PRO12's 2012-13 Players' Player of the Year. "You never know if you're going to play again so it's a case of go hard or go home.

"There was obviously a lot of frustration there as I hadn't played in a while, I just wanted to get amongst it and bash some heads."

Within the laws of the game, of course.

He continued: "I think it's something healthy.

"If the boys want me to do that week in week out then of course I'll get in there and get my hands a bit dirty.

"Take Friday for instance, there wasn't one player who was below par.

"Everyone was on point and buying into the gameplan which is why we put on a decent display."

Preparing for a trip to Scarlets tomorrow, Williams is expecting a different proposition against a side who opened the season by ending Glasgow Warriors' 20-game unbeaten home run in the PRO12.

Like his head coach Neil Doak, he highlights the effectiveness of the region's back-rowers James Davies and John Barclay, while also admiring the style of play adopted by Wayne Pivac's men.

"It's always a tough place to go," said Williams. "They play a brand of rugby that's unbelievably accurate.

"Their stadium has a bit of an echo to it, it's not as atmospheric, so I guess we have to make our own atmosphere and make of it what we can.

"We just have to focus on what we can do. They're going to be tough regardless.

"Against Glasgow, it was an unbelievable, and like I said accurate, performance in that first 40 minutes when they put the game to bed. They were physical and hopefully we can negate that."

A part of the game you expect Williams will approach with gusto.

PRO12 League: Parc y Scarlets, Saturday, 3pm



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