Williams set for derby day
By Mark Stevens
Last week a full house at HQ with England, tomorrow a packed out Sandy Park.
For Harry Williams, though, the on-field task is no different as he packs down in an Exeter Chiefs side looking to cement their place at the summit of the Aviva Premiership.
Back-to-back wins against Harlequins and Saracens have put Rob Baxter’s defending champions in pole position after nine rounds of domestic battle, but tomorrow the Chiefs face a true test of their title credentials when local rivals Bath arrive in town for this much anticipated Westcountry derby (2pm).
Whilst his colleagues have quietly gone about their business both in the Premiership and Anglo-Welsh Cup, Williams has been part and parcel of Eddie Jones’ England squad, adding a further three caps to his name having made his Test debut last summer during their tour to Argentina.
This weekend, however, the former Jersey tight-head is ‘Back in Black’ pulling on an Exeter jersey and looking to further enhance his own claims for both club and country.
“The last few weeks have been an awesome experience,” he said. “There’s been plenty of hard work and training, but that’s what you expect at international level. Yes, I was keen to kick on after the summer but, as I’ve said before, you can’t have the second without the first.
“My primary focus coming back this season after the summer was to be 100% playing well for the Chiefs. Thankfully, I had some decent performances on the pitch and the international stuff just led on from that. Now, I need to shelf all of that again and focus on the games coming up in the Premiership and in Europe.”
With that in mind, Williams’ first focus will be that of tackling an in-form Bath outfit. Not only do they arrive in Devon brimming with confidence having lost just once in their last nine games, but they remain the last side to beat the Chiefs on their own turf in the top flight, winning right at the death some 13 months ago.
Williams is aware of the threat the visitors pose, particularly with their international contingent also returning this weekend, and he says he and his team-mates will need to be fully focused on the threat they pose.
“They are a dangerous team with lots of good individuals players within their ranks,” he added. “They’ll have confidence coming down here and because we’re defending champions and we’re top of the table currently, we’re the team that is there to be shot at. What we need to do is focus on ourselves and put in a big performance for the Sandy Park massive.”
As is always the case, the Chiefs will have left no stone unturned in their quest to plot the downfall of their rivals. However, Williams insists that whilst the necessary homework has been done on Todd Blackadder’s men, the majority of work this past week has been on putting together the Exeter game plan.
“We’ve done our homework on them and we’ve looked at the way they attack and the way they defend,” said Williams. “That said, our main focus has been more on ourselves and getting everything right with us. We know Sandy Park is a difficult place for away teams to come to, but we want it to be like that. We want it to be a hellish experience for opposition teams, so hopefully we can do that at the weekend.
“As has been mentioned, it’s a local derby, the place is going to be packed out, what more do you need?
“If you look back to the two games last year, both of them went down to the last play, so we know it’s going to be a tough game. As players if you can’t get yourselves up for a local fixture like this, then there is no point playing. We know what we have to do at the weekend, now we’ve just got to go out there, deliver it, and hopefully come away with the result.”