Bristol Rugby wing Matt Williams reaping the benefits of two-month injury lay-off
THERE is bad news for Championship defences: Bristol flyer Matt Williams is quicker than he was a year ago and has vowed to continue working on his speed.
The 24-year-old's blistering pace earned him an England Sevens chance over the summer – and, although he was injured on international duty, the sessions he subsequently spent in the gym have allowed him to improve his sprint times.
Williams showcased his raw speed in the closing minutes of Sunday's 29-17 win over Cornish Pirates, supporting Ruki Tipuna's winding break, before accelerating to score in the corner.
The former Doncaster winger continues to balance bulk and power with pace – and believes his injury, while frustrating at the time, has allowed him to become a more imposing physical force.
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"Being injured is a negative, but you have to try to take some positives out of it," said Williams. "My time off the pitch allowed me to concentrate a bit more in the gym – and I did a lot more weights and upper-body conditioning.
"I have seen the benefits from that and it has helped me in my game, so I did utilise that two months out as best I could. I could have sulked and moped around, but I took the benefits from it.
"All the weights I do are to make me quicker, more powerful and stronger. I work hard with the strength and conditioning staff and my programme is quite balanced.
"I will put on weight and I will get bigger, but at the same time I'll be stronger and quicker – and my times have reflected that.
"My times at the beginning of last season were slower than they were at the beginning of this season – my ten metres has got quicker, my 40 metres has got quicker, so it has helped me.
"I've bulked up and put on weight, but I'm also getting quicker, so that's really positive."
Williams' try-scoring return to the Bristol starting line-up has given head coach Liam Middleton something of a dilemma ahead of Sunday's trip to Leeds.
Williams replaced Ryan Edwards at the weekend – but the 21-year-old had been in fine try-scoring form in pre-season and the opening two Championship games.
But whether he plays or not, Williams knows Bristol will have their work cut at Headingley against a Leeds team who have scored 11 tries to Bristol's six so far this season.
"It was a tight game up there last year and we probably should have won," said Williams, in reference to last September's 12-11 defeat. "They're going to be a tough team to beat, especially on their own ground.
"As London Welsh and Exeter have proved, the gap between the Premiership and Championship is not as vast as it used to be, and Leeds found it a lot tougher than they maybe expected.
"But they've still got a good team and good players, so we're expecting a tough game. They're one of the better teams in the league, so we'll have to play to our potential if we want to get anything out of the game.
"In this league, you have to play well every single week to pick up victories. You can't have an off day or an off game, otherwise you're going to lose, so we need to play well for the whole 80 minutes and improve again on last weekend."