Williams relishing Tigers test
By Mark Stevens
It may not be the happiest of hunting grounds for Exeter Chiefs prop Harry Williams, but he insists the challenge of tackling Leicester Tigers on their own Welford Road patch is one that he relishes.
The table-topping Chiefs will make the trip to the East Midlands this Saturday (4:30pm), safe in the knowledge they have already secured their place in the end of season play-offs, even though there are still five rounds of the regular Gallagher Premiership campaign still to go.
Rob Baxter’s side have achieved the feat in record time, amassing 71 points from their 17 games to date, but England international Williams says there will be no let-up from the Devonians between now and the end of the season, particularly as they still have to accrue at least one more victory to ensure home advantage in the last four.
“Having home advantage in the semi’s is obviously an advantage, but it’s not what we are really talking about,” said the 27-year-old prop. “We know what is at stake in this game at the weekend. If we win, we get a home semi-final, but our main goal is we want to go there and play well.
“I think I’ve been to Leicester four times now and only won once. It’s a massive stadium, a hostile crowd, and they are a good team. Every game, win or lose, it’s always a good game, so it’s easy get excited about the weekend.”
Unlike the Chiefs who have ruled the roost at the summit of the Premiership for much of the season, the Tigers on the other hand have struggled to find any real consistency and they come into this latest Round 18 meeting just five points ahead of basement club Newcastle Falcons.
“They [Leicester] always get up for the game and they’ll be physical, all the usual stuff really,” continued Williams. “I think at the bottom end of the table it’s very tight, so a lot of teams are in a similar predicament. They are going to be fighting for their lives, but it’s the same for half the teams in the league.
“We need to expect a physical confrontation and I suppose cherish it a little bit because it’s why we play the game. It’s in those dogfights that we want to thrive. Each game now is like a hurdle before the finish line - and with every hurdle we overcome, we want to improve from it.I believe we can and I believe we can shift through the gears and put in some unbelievable performances before the end of the year.
“Losing out last season is definitely a driver for us. There are positive and negative aspects to it. We felt what it is like to win it - and it’s such a good feeling - but also there is that little bit of bitterness that we couldn’t do it again last year. It’s a sentiment echoed around the entire squad because we want to win it back.”
Saturday’s game will mark a 200th Premiership outfit for the Chiefs who, to date, have won 122 of those games, including seven in 17 starts against the Tigers. They do, however, head into this match having won four of their last five meetings, the only blot coming at Welford Road last season when Leicester triumphed 20-13.