Duncan Williams is an experienced, highly-regarded rugby player. But he hasn’t always seen it that way.
The scrum-half has had to display huge strength of character to overcome numerous hurdles of varying kinds to remain an integral part of the Munster squad at the age of 31.
He was capped for Ireland Schools and Under-21s during a massively promising underage career before joining the Munster Academy on his first year out of CBC, gaining promotion to the senior squad in 2010 where he will remain until at least June 2019. As always, though, the competition for the coveted number nine jersey remains as fierce as ever, something with which Duncan is very familiar.
“Yeah, I’m well used to that,” he reflects. “In Munster, we’ve had the majority of starting scrum-halves for Ireland for a number of years at this point so I’d be surprised if there wasn’t competition.”
When asked if last season was his best yet, he responded: “You know what people say about perception. People might have thought last year was my best season but I think I played just as well in other seasons and because the perception out there was that I was useless, people didn’t think so. But, yeah, if people want to think that, they can think that, but in my own mind that’s not the case.”
Pressed if he really believed that low opinion of him was out there among supporters, he replied: “I wouldn’t say there wasn’t an air. As I said perception is perception, so whatever people want to think… you can take that whatever way you want.”
Even when reminded that he is one of the longest serving members of the dressing room, Williams wasn’t exactly taking solace in that observation. “Yeah, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing,” he said. “Myself and Billy (Holland) are the oldest in the squad so I went from being the youngest to the middle group to one of the old fogeys.
“I’ve seen a lot of young lads coming through. When you see Alex Wooton at the weekend and Sweets is around the same age as well so it’s a young group and there are some very good players there. You have fellas like Liam O’Connor there now who has played three games and a lot of lads who haven’t played a game yet who are still pushing everybody. So it’s a very competitive group and the average age is pretty low which is a good sign.”
While the Red Army are quietly satisfied at the side taking a maximum 10 points from the first two games, many will wait to see what happens over the next four weeks or so when Ospreys, Glasgow, Cardiff Blues, and Leinster provide potentially stiffer opposition.
Williams, though, dismisses suggestions that the wins over Treviso and Cheetahs were straightforward.
“Treviso the first week, they made a lot of signings since the end of last season and we were expecting good things from them,” he mused. “They will come good in the next couple of weeks once all of those players have bedded in together. The same for the Cheetahs, it was hard for them to come into a new style and brand of rugby.”
Munster now turn their attentions to the Ospreys and the Liberty Stadium on Saturday. Supporters certainly won’t be complaining if Wiliams reproduces last week’s form when two of his delightful little left-footed grubber kicks set up tries for wingers Alex Wootton and Simon Zebo with his general play also well up to the mark. The Ospreys is a fixture that has held special appeal for Duncan Williams.
“It’s’s always an entertaining, good and tough game. They play good attacking rugby and can hurt you from anywhere. It always goes the full 80 minutes.”
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