Bionic bone puts Wil­liams back into Eng­land equa­tion

Le­ices­ter for­ward tells Tom Cary he hopes to be a de­struc­tive force for Jones

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - SPORT -

W with his strength­ened arm hen Mike Wil­liams takes to the field at the Ri­coh Arena this af­ter­noon for Le­ices­ter’s crunch clash with Wasps, the mas­sive Zim­babwe-born, Eng­landqual­i­fied flanker will do so for­ti­fied not only by a spe­cially mod­i­fied guard to pro­tect the arm that he has bro­ken three times in the last 12 months, but also by a new se­cret weapon: bionic bones.

Wil­liams, it turns out, has been tak­ing med­i­ca­tion for the last few months to boost the cal­cium con­tent in his blood, help­ing to in­crease the den­sity and strength of the arm which has caused him to miss so much of the last year.

“Parathy­roid hor­mone it’s called,” he ex­plains af­ter a bone-crunch­ing shake of the hand at Le­ices­ter’s train­ing base in Oadby in mid­week.

“I had never heard of it. Af­ter [the third break in Oc­to­ber] I went down to Lon­don with my physio to see a guy called Richard Keen, who is one of the lead­ing bone spe­cial­ists in Eng­land. He works with nu­mer­ous guys in Bri­tish Ath­let­ics. He put me on a med­i­ca­tion which has only been on the shelf for 15 years. It’s given to the el­derly with brit­tle bones. Ba­si­cally, when we had the screws and the plate taken out there was ob­vi­ously a weak­ness where all the screw holes are. The med­i­ca­tion is to help fill out those holes.”

If it con­tin­ues to have a re­ju­ve­nat­ing ef­fect on the 25-year-old – and Wil­liams re­turned just be­fore Christ­mas to no ill ef­fects – it would be a wel­come bit of good news for Le­ices­ter. They need it at the mo­ment. The sack­ing of direc­tor of rugby Richard Cock­er­ill on Mon­day af­ter eight years in charge was seis­mic; the loss to in­jury of Manu Tuilagi for the rest of the sea­son, just as he looked to be re­gain­ing a bit of form and fit­ness, an­other kick in the prover­bials. These are un­cer­tain times at Welford Road.

A fully fit Wil­liams could also be very good news for Eng­land.

Ed­die Jones clearly be­lieves he has seen some­thing in the Bulawayo-born player, the Aus­tralian re­peat­edly call­ing him up for his Eng­land train­ing get-to­geth­ers de­spite his in­jury set­backs. At 6ft 5in and over 18st it is not dif­fi­cult to see why.

With Chris Rob­shaw the lat­est Eng­land back-rower to fall victim to in­jury, join­ing a list which in­cludes James Haskell, Jack Clif­ford, Billy Vu­nipola and Sam Jones, a big, ath­letic hulk of a man who can play across the back five is no bad thing.

Jones has even spo­ken about Wil­liams – who qual­i­fies for Eng­land thanks to his ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther, who left Sus­sex dur­ing the war and set­tled in what was then Rhode­sia – as a po­ten­tial open­side, a po­si­tion with which the for­mer Sharks and Blue Bulls player is not overly fa­mil­iar. The man him­self is too ea­ger to get a taste of in­ter­na­tional ac­tion, though – and too flat­tered by Jones’s in­ter­est in him – to worry about where he plays.

“When Ed­die [spoke about me] as play­ing seven, I thought ‘Jeez, I’ve never re­ally played seven’,” he ad­mits. “But it just shows. I’ll use that as an ex­am­ple of Ed­die look­ing at me as a seven-slash-six. He just wants a kind of de­struc­tive man in de­fence and a de­struc­tive guy in at­tack. And if you can do that you can pretty much play any­where in the back row.

“Ed­die doesn’t look at an out-and­out seven who can ‘jackal’ like a [David] Po­cock or a [Michael] Hooper or any­one like that. He just kind of wants those big, de­struc­tive peo­ple in de­fence and at­tack. It’s ob­vi­ously the right thing to do be­cause you can see how well Eng­land are do­ing at the mo­ment. Hope­fully, now I’ve sorted this arm of mine, I can get my chance.”

No one would be­grudge Wil­liams a bit of good for­tune af­ter the run of luck he has en­dured. It has been a tough 12 months, not only be­cause of his in­juries but anx­i­ety he feels about the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion back in his homeland.

Wil­liams, who “grew up in the bush, hunt­ing” has not seen his father, who runs a min­ing com­pany in Harare, for about two years. “Last sea­son was the first for a while that I didn’t go home in be­tween sea­sons, be­cause of how bad it is,” he says. “I thought it prob­a­bly wasn’t the best time for me to go home be­cause it is very up­set­ting to see how bad things are; eco­nom­i­cally, ev­ery­thing re­ally. There is no money in the coun­try and it is a con­stant strug­gle there.” All his friends he grew up with, he says, have left, although his mother, his brother and his father are still there.

“It is hard, not be­ing able to see my fam­ily, but if I am lucky enough to get capped, I will bring them over for one of those games,” he says.

For the mo­ment, it is a case of just get­ting his head down, and trust­ing in his bionic bones, start­ing with Wasps this af­ter­noon.

“It’s go­ing to be a tough game but the team is very driven to get things right and to make Cock­ers proud by com­ing away with a win,” Wil­liams says, ad­mit­ting the loss of the man who brought him to Le­ices­ter from Worces­ter two years ago was a big shock. “It isn’t im­pos­si­ble. We know their weak­nesses as well as they know ours. We will give it our best shot.

“They have a lot of fire­power in the back line, so hope­fully if we keep it up front, we’ll give our­selves a good chance.”

Resur­gent: Mike Wil­liams re­turned to the pitch last month af­ter a se­ries of arm in­juries

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