Cardiff’s barn-storming Kiwi No 8 Nick Williams might be nearing end of his career, but the veteran insists the form of the Welsh region has peaked perfectly ahead of Friday’s European Challenge Cup Final against Gloucester at Bilbao.
The former Junior All Black, now 34, has enjoyed one of the finest seasons in his 14-year career, playing a key role in the back row alongside the likes of Ellis Jenkins, Josh Navidi and Olly Robinson.
“In this part of my career, I didn’t think I’d be able to go to play in a final,” said Williams, who arrived in Cardiff in 2016 and previously played for Munster, Aironi and Ulster after quitting North Harbour in 2008.
“It’s a big blessing, personally, but from where we were when I arrived in Cardiff compared to where we are going to be on Friday night, is a huge step.
“Us getting there is one huge step, and winning will be another big one, another task that I’m very much looking forward to.”
Williams added that minds would be on the game rather than potential silverware at the San Mames Stadium. Cardiff won the competition in 2010 while Gloucester are seeking a third success after wins in 2006 and 2015.
“We need to treat this one as any other game, and that’s what we’ve tried to drive through the heads in training this week,” said the Kiwi, older brother of Chiefs back Tim Nanai-Williams and cousin of both code-swapping All Black Sonny Bill Williams and boxer Joseph Parker.
“Not much will change in the game, just that you get a little silver thing to hold up at the end if you win,” he said.
“Form came into play at the right time of the season, and we’re now looking forward to getting to Bilbao and hopefully get the win.
“When you have a happy camp and happy players, that can go a long way. The boys come to work with a smile, which might sound like a cliche, but the boys want to play for each other.
“We have a really good mix here of young guys coming up and the older boys like myself and Melon [Gethin Jenkins] and we seem to be clicking. The boys are happy.
“I’m 34 now and you don’t get to many finals when you’re that age. You need to savour it…”