31 August 2022
Matt Williams has outlined the challenge ahead for Declan Kidney’s Exiles as London Irish travel to take on Munster Rugby at Musgrave Park, Cork this Friday (2nd).
Irish, having defeated Jersey Reds last weekend away from home 31-29, return for their second pre-season contest, this time against Graham Rowntree’s provincial outfit.
Williams achieved a personal milestone in the Club’s previous outing, returning to the field for the first time in over half a calendar year in what was a crowning performance for the versatile back.
Reflecting on the victory in St. Peter, the 24-year-old recounts the improvements necessary from his team but is confident in the work achieved this week at Hazelwood will enable an elevated showing in Ireland.
“It was a good hit-out for us at the end of what felt like a long pre-season, the lads have been itching to get back out on to the pitch and play,” Williams tells.
“It was a game however where not everything went right for us, and there are a lot of improvements we will be taking into next week.
“All in all, we went out there and executed some of the things we wanted to, and the main thing was getting back to match fitness and getting prepared for a long season ahead.
“There were a few inaccuracies on the field in some of the plays, a couple of balls went to the floor and a few rolls that we didn’t quite get spot on.
“Those have been addressed this week, the boys have gone away to look at those and looked at ways in how we can fix them up.
“We know the challenge Munster will pose, so we’ll have to be on top of our game to get the job done in Cork.”
Starting at inside centre, Williams’ homecoming in an Irish jersey was a promising one for thing to come this season from the Academy graduate.
Making a strong linebreak in the opening five minutes, he assisted Caolan Englefield in the first try of the game before a deft grubber kick played an important role in the plays preceding Isaac Curtis-Harris’ score.
Williams continued: “It was a relief for me really to get back out there, it was another long injury setback I had and it was seven months since I last played.
“I just wanted to get out there, enjoy the game and be back out there playing with my teammates.
“I was happy with how I went, but it’s a long old season and there’s plenty more that I want to do, so I won’t focus on it too much.
“When you’re injured, you picture a lot of the games you have missed and moments like that when you’re in it and you do think about them.
“But when you get there, it’s just second nature- you do so much training and I’ve practiced those things so many times and you hope that they just come off.”
The pre-season is a renowned chance for management to allow their young talent to express themselves in exacting scenarios, and Irish was no different against Reds.
Senior Academy players Tarek Haffar, Michael Dykes and Joe Vajner were all named in the travelling squad to the Channel Islands, with Munster also handing five players first-team debuts.
Williams speaks of the importance in enabling pitch-time opportunities for the respective young talents before the commencement of the campaign.
“It’s important for the young players to come in and get some game time and some run-outs in the pre-season, especially for the first year Academy lads who are making the step-up to professional rugby.
“For a lot of them, it can be quite a big jump so bleeding them into games where there isn’t as much on the line in the way of points is beneficial.
“It’s a great opportunity to go and practice what we have done on the training field, put your best foot forward and show what you can do.
“Getting them involved as early as we can is great and crucial, and given the length of the season, we will rely on the whole of the squad so everyone will have to be ready when the opportunity comes around.”
The previous United Rugby Championship and Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finalists Munster, recharged with Graham Rowntree at the helm, came unstuck against Gallagher Premiership side Gloucester Rugby in Cork last week 29-18.
The six-year Exile talks on what challenge Irish are anticipating from Friday’s hosts.
“Everyone knows the pedigree of the rugby produced by Munster in the last 10 to 15 years or so.
“We are aware of their physicality as a team, they’ll be aggressive in their defence so we will be ready to meet that head on, there will be a good fight up-front.
“As they are a well-drilled side, we have to be clinical should opportunities be presented to us and we have honed in on this past week.
“We look forward to implementing them on the weekend.”
Season Tickets for Irish’s return to the Gtech Community Stadium are available to purchase here.