ENGLAND rugby team coach Eddie Jones has backed Zimbabwe-born rugby star Mike Williams to make an impact in Test rugby when he makes his long-awaited debut for his adopted nation during this year’s RBS Six Nations campaign which begins next month. BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
The 25-year-old Leicester Tigers second rower was one of the three uncapped players included in the England 34-man squad ahead of their RBS Six Nations opener against France on February 4.
Williams endured the disappointment of breaking his arm for the third time in 12 month after being included in the elite England training squad in their end of year tour in October last year.
That injury sidelined him for two months, and kept him out of England’s autumn series clean sweep, but Jones is sure of his ability to do well at the highest level.
“Williams would have been selected in the last squad but had some injury problems and hasn’t played that much or that well of late so we are taking a bit of punt on him, but we feel like he has got the physique and attitude to make it in Test rugby,” Jones told the Rugby Football Union’s official website on Thursday.
Known for his abrasive ball-carrying and strength in defence, Williams has been one of the bright spots at Leicester Tigers, who were knocked out of the European Champions Cup earlier this month, and are fifth in the Premiership.
Although he was born in Bulawayo, attending ex-Christian Brothers College for his high school, Williams, whose parents still live in Zimbabwe, is eligible to play for England through his grandfather.
Williams, who grew up idolising the Springboks, spent three years at the Sharks Academy in Durban where he captained the KwaZulu-Natal side in the Under-19 Currie Cup for two years between 2010 and 2011.
The versatile forward, who plays primarily as a lock but he can also play at flanker, however made his senior breakthrough at the Bulls after initially moving to Pretoria to join the University of Pretoria in the Varsity Cup.
Williams won back to back Varsity Cup titles with the Tuks in 2012 and 2013 before moving to England to join Worcester Warriors on a two-year deal.