IF anyone ever produced perfect timing to silence the doubters it was Nick Williams when he thundered his way through Munster’s Magners League clash with the Newport Gwent Dragons on Sunday.
Williams joined an elite group of back-row forwards when scoring a hat-trick of tries in top class rugby. It was the perfect response to answer the critics, disappointed with the impact the player made since his arrival from New Zealand last year.
Williams was conscious of the pressure himself, admitting relief after his Man-of-the-Match display, and he was thankful for the support of management and squad members through a difficult period.
Williams’ physicality and scintillating form was hugely influential in helping demolish a Welsh side in a hugely competitive opening 40 minutes last Sunday.
Yesterday, Munster team manager Shaun Payne publicly joined that list of admirers: “Behind the scenes, we didn’t doubt him. He had a great pre-season, was superb in training and he is incredible in terms of his physical capabilities.
“He was unfortunate to get an injury when he did, but it was great to finally see him get on the pitch and translate all the hard work into such a positive contribution.
“Nick has been here a while and we have seen him day in and day out in training; we were able to see what he is capable of.
“Yes, it was frustrating for him, and for us, that he hasn’t been able to translate form from training to match day action.
“This pre-season, he was looking really very good but unfortunately picked up another injury in the London Irish game; that was very frustrating for him but this (game) showed what he is capable of.
“He didn’t just score those tries, he powered through for them. Sure, people have said he needed a big game but we knew he had it in him; it was very pleasing to see it happen,” added Payne.
Meanwhile, Payne has described Munster’s front row response to an early season chastening by Glasgow Warriors as “amazing” and said the performance against the Dragons last week had been awesome.
“There has been a steady improvement, particularly last week. They gave a very solid platform and I suppose that was reflected in the fact that Nick was able to get a hat-trick from the back of the scrum.”
With the Heineken Cup on the horizon, Payne and company must prepare for a tough severe challenge against Leinster at the RDS on Saturday.
But the manager is relishing the prospect of a re-match against the European champions. He described the game as the perfect build-up to the European campaign:
“We’re looking forward to this game for all sorts of reasons; I’m sure Leinster would feel the same. There isn’t a bigger test for us really; there isn’t a bigger rivalry for us and for Leinster. It’s a big test in advance of the Heineken Cup although I appreciate it’s early in the season; both of us are still finding our feet in terms of selection and availability of players.
“In my time here in Ireland I’ve been involved in some great games against Leinster and it’s a game you don’t need any special motivation for.
“On top of other matches, the two Heineken Cup semi-final clashes must rank as two of the most amazing games in the history of the tournament. This fixture has taken on more and more importance in the last few years; there is a high intensity feel about it and it’s important to have that type of high intensity at this stage.”
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