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Ulster 'Bulldozer' Nick Williams backed to smash down Munster walls

Chris Henry believes the Kiwi No.8 can help drive his team to league and European success.

Nick Williams breaks through the Leicester defence in October.
Nick Williams breaks through the Leicester defence in October.
Image: INPHO/Presseye/Darren Kidd

ULSTER SUPPORTERS MUST have been hard pressed, earlier this week, when the province announced that three of their best players were in line to face Munster. Iain Henderson, Nick Williams and Chris Henry are all back in the mix. The hard-pressed part comes from choosing which piece of positive injury news was best.

Henderson is a viable starter in the second row but Mark Anscombe may deploy him at blindside for the upcoming interprovinicial and Heineken Cup games. Henry’s has been sorely missed at the breakdown in recent weeks and Ulster were fortunate to face no greater Heineken Cup foe than Treviso in his hamstring-nursing absence.

The reappearance of Williams in an Ulster jersey is arguably the best news of the lot. The New Zealander scored seven tries in 22 appearances in 2012/13, was pure, ball-carrying chaos for opponents and deservedly won the league’s player of the season accolade. He has played only six games in the current campaign and has not featured since mid October.

Henry told TheScore.ie that Roger Wilson — called up to train with Ireland in November — has done a fine job in Williams’ stead but acknowledges the boost his return brings the team. He said:

Nick’s a bulldozer. He takes the ball into brick walls and is able to give us momentum. His offloads are fantastic too and are vital in a lot of our attacks. His calf has been giving him a bit of gyp but has cleared, which is great as he’s one of our big, big players.”

Although he watched the game from afar, Henry admits Ulster were outplayed at the breakdown in last week’s 19-6 loss to Leinster at the RDS. “We struggled to keep our own ball and we conceded a few turnovers. The Leinster ball was so quick. That’s what they pride themselves at; getting the ball back to Isaac [Boss] as soon as they can,” said Henry.

The openside, who is the prime candidate to replace the injured Sean O’Brien in the Irish set-up, is back to do a job for Ulster this weekend and a huge part, he says, will be slowing Munster at the breakdown. He added, “In the past, we’ve talked about wanting to be right up there with Leinster and Munster. We’re not up to our current high standards at the moment but have an opportunity to set that right on Friday.”

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Henry did not feature in last season’s back-and-forth league clash at Ravenhill, as Munster led 16-9 at the break before losing 20-19. Nonetheless, the flanker knows a supreme effort will be needed to inflict only a second defeat on their interpro rivals.

“Munster are a team that play for 80 minutes,” said Henry. “They’ve got this belief in themselves and that’s manifested in last-minute plays for tries and last-gasp penalties and drop goals. They’ll keep fighting for 80 minutes and we must be ready to match that level of intensity.”

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