Nick Williams has been able to remain with the Cardiff Blues for another season after a meeting with the PRB/RMB.
It was feared in recent weeks that the No 8 would be unable to continue his stay with the club as the Welsh Rugby Union blocked his extension, but it seems as though common ground has been found.
Since his arrival in 2016 from Ulster, the 35-year-old has become one of the most influential players on the team and Cardiff Blues’ chief executive Richard Holland is delighted that he is staying on.
“We are thrilled to be able to retain the services of Nick, a player who has become such a key figure within our environment. Anyone who has watched Cardiff Blues this season, and most recently Judgement Day, will have seen he is still producing the goods on the pitch but on top of that, he brings an enormous cultural benefit to the entire environment. He will now continue to play a key role in mentoring and developing young Welsh talent,” he said.
As Holland mentions one of the terms of his extension is that he will help with the development of younger players in the squad and Holland hopes that this could see a long-term position open up for Williams.
“We would like to thank PRB for their support throughout the process, which has culminated with a positive outcome for Cardiff Blues and our strategy to develop young talent from within, which is ultimately for the betterment of Welsh rugby as a whole. Nick embodies all of the values we want at Cardiff Blues and this mentoring role has the potential to become something more long-term,” he added.
Williams, who has settled in Barry with his family had previously spoken of his love for the area and his desire to remain in Wales and is excited that he can continue with the club.
“I’m very happy and blessed to be able to go again. I spoke to my family and they were all supportive, so I told John in November-time that I was keen to stick around. The body feels fresh, mentally I feel good and it all seems to be working for us so I’m happy to get another year. After winning the Challenge Cup I thought it was a good way to go out but I didn’t really think about what I could give back to rugby, particularly in regards to bringing young guys through. I have a good relationship with the boys. I’m a bit more kicked back and relaxed compared to some of the other boys. I like to lead with action and hopefully the boys follow,” he said.
Williams is also excited with his role in aiding with the development of younger players and has promised to give his all for the region.
“I really rate the young boys in the squad. We have a good group, who have come through together and are very tight. Hopefully I can help them develop and if they stick together the future is really bright both for Cardiff Blues and the individuals. I also like to think I’ve also been playing some decent rugby. We have a recipe here that works. Cardiff Blues look after me through the week and I pay them back by giving 110 per cent on the weekend. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to keep playing here,” he added.
The No 8, who has scored 12 tries in 66 appearances, is as good in defence as he is in attack and head coach John Mulvihill is happy that he will have his presence on and off the pitch next season.
“It is great to keep Nick at the Arms Park. He brings a physical presence every time he takes the field and still has a huge amount to offer. Off the pitch he is an invaluable mentor to the likes of Jim Botham, Alun Lawrence and Shane Lewis-Hughes. We have further announcements to make in the coming weeks and will continue to strengthen our squad where possible,” he said.
The Welsh outfit have been working well to keep players at the club as well as Williams with other star men Josh Navidi, Tomos Williams, Jarrod Evans, Rhys Gill and Willis Halaholo all signing new deals. Along with them are the new signings of Welsh duo Hallam Amos and Josh Adams, all of which makes the Blues an exciting prospect already for next season.
Munster confirm Zebo signing
This co-funded contract will see Munster’s all-time record try-scorer return from Racing 92 and line out for his home club where he made 144 appearances and scored 60 tries between 2010 and 2018.
In his third season with the Top 14 side, the 31-year-old has played 55 times and scored 21 tries to date.
Head Coach Johann van Graan said, “The opportunity to bring Simon back to Munster came about in early April following a final review of our squad’s budgetary position for season-end and with assistance from the IRFU to support what we believe is a really good deal for Munster and Irish Rugby.
“Simon’s desire to return to Ireland and play with his home club is illustrated by his willingness to sign at a level below his market value elsewhere. This has made bringing the province’s all-time leading try-scorer back home, possible.”
Simon Zebo said, “I am thrilled and honoured to be coming back home to play for Munster. My family and I have been so lucky to have enjoyed three incredible years with Racing 92 in Paris and I cannot thank the team there enough, I really have made friends for life and take with me some brilliant memories.
“However, as everyone knows, Munster holds a very special place in my heart and I’ve always said that I wanted to play for them and potentially Ireland again, so when this opportunity arose the lure of being close to home, family and friends and Munster fans, it outweighed all other options. I cannot wait to get back to the HPC with the team and hopefully a packed Thomond Park.”
Ulster Rugby agree to release Coetzee early
Marcell Coetzee has played his last game for Ulster Rugby.
With back-row, Marcell Coetzee, currently side-lined with a hamstring injury, Ulster Rugby has agreed terms which will see the player released from the club at the end of this month, ahead of his planned departure at the conclusion of the 2020/21 season.
Given the need for several weeks of rehabilitation following the injury sustained by Coetzee in last month’s Guinness PRO14 fixture against Leinster, Ulster Rugby and the player have reached a mutual agreement to part ways on Friday 30 April.
Head of Rugby Operations and Recruitment, Bryn Cunningham, said: “We have come to an agreement that will allow Marcell the time and space required to continue his rehab.
Lowry retained at 10 for Ulster v Zebre
21-year-old, Cormac Izuchukwu will make his first start for the Ulster men as he is named in the second row alongside Kieran Treadwell. Marty Moore comes back into the starting front row at tighthead, with Eric O’Sullivan and John Andrew retaining their starting berths at loosehead and hooker. Jordi Murphy will captain the side at openside flanker, with Sean Reidy and David McCann being retained at blindside and Number Eight.
A youthful back line sees Ethan McIlroy coming into the back three at full-back, with Rob Lyttle on the left wing and Robert Baloucoune returning on the right. Stewart Moore and James Hume will make up the midfield pairing, while John Cooney and Michael Lowry are named at half-back.
Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor and Matty Rea are the forward reinforcements, with David Shanahan, Ian Madigan and Ben Moxham providing the back line options on the bench.
Ulster team to play Zebre Rugby, Guinness PRO14 Round 16, Friday 19 March at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 8.15pm, live on Premier Sports / eir Sport):
(15-9) Ethan McIlroy, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Rob Lyttle, Michael Lowry, John Cooney;
(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, John Andrew, Marty Moore, Cormac Izuchukwu, Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, Jordy Murphy (Capt.), David McCann.
Replacements: Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Matty Rea, David Shanahan, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.