If you want your players to display fighting spirit, commitment to a cause combined with a considerable modicum of skill, then Duncan Williams should be your man.
Since he first linked up with Munster eight years ago, Williams has had to play second fiddle to three of Ireland’s finest scrum-halves, Peter Stringer, Tomas O’Leary, and Conor Murray.
He has been with Munster since 2009, but more often than not, only got his chance in the nine jersey when the top men were away on international duty or laid low by injury.
He spent many a frustrating hour trying to stay warm on the replacements bench or training away with little hope of getting the coveted call, but he never grew overly despondent, not even when he sensed the Red Army weren’t exactly throwing their weight behind him.
When it was put to Williams this week that the recent two-year contract extension must have come as good news, he responded: “It was. I suppose there was probably a collective groan around the province when it was announced.”
Asked if the fans were not supportive, he smiled wryly: “I suppose they are coming to all the matches now, cheering us on. I can’t complain.”
Williams, 30, was aware that James Hart was joining Munster from Racing 92 when he signed the contract.
“I knew the story,” he declared. “I’ve been here long enough now to know that there has always been competition for places. Since I’ve been here, the starting scrum-half for Ireland for the last 12 years has also been here. There has always been good competition at nine and it is something I relish. I am not planning on lying down and rolling over so James Hart can come in and take the place easily enough. I am going to fight all the way.”
Of the contract extension and what it means to him, he said: “It was good to get it sorted, earlier in the season than normal too, which was great. Around this time of year, it is always something you would look in to. Since I was five or six, I have wanted to play for Munster. As long as there was something here and I was happy, all I ever wanted to do was play for Munster and I was happy to stay and do that.”
His contribution has not been lost on director of rugby Rassie Erasmus: “It’s nice to see Duncan Williams being unbelievable as one of the senior players.”
As if reacting to such praise, Williams said: “Coming in on a Monday, it is a lot easier compared to when you have lost a few games. The mood is good and people are enjoying it. I would always be confident in my ability. The more games you play, the better you get.
“I am happy with my form and the team’s form. We are scoring a lot of points, which is always a good sign. I think last year we were probably not scoring enough points and we were leaving some tries behind us. That came back to haunt us, whereas we seem to be taking a lot of those opportunities at the moment and scoring some tries.”
As for this week’s first versus second away clash with the Ospreys, he said: “I have played at the Liberty Stadium a few times before and it is a tough place to go. Ospreys like to throw the ball around, they like to score tries and I think they also have the best defensive record in the league.”
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