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Owen Williams ready to fight for Toby Flood’s No.10 shirt

Owen WilliamsFreddie Burns’ expected arrival at Welford Road has Tigers fans purring but he should not expect to walk into the No.10 shirt – at least not if Owen Williams has anything to do with it.

The Welsh upstart, in his first season at Leicester, has begun to make a name for himself since his arrival from the Scarlets.

Still only 21, Williams put on a fly-half clinic in the first-half of his side’s victory over Sale a fortnight ago and was just as impressive against Bath last weekend, a missed last-minute touchline conversion notwithstanding.

A former Wales U20 star who has also represented Great Britain’s U18 rugby league team, the Llanelli lad has not taken long to settle in the Midlands.

Despite his strong showings however, Richard Cockerill has made no secret of his search for a replacement for the outgoing Toby Flood.  But with England international Burns set to announce his arrival soon, Williams remains undaunted in his quest to be the starting stand-off.

“This is a chance for me to really show what I can do and I have got to grab it with both hands,” he told The Rugby Paper. “The club are going to be bringing a 10 in so that is added motivation for me, I have got to keep playing my best and make the most of any opportunity.

“I can’t take my foot off the pedal and hopefully I can prove them wrong.

“I feel like I am starting to get into a bit of a rhythm now, I struggled to start with in the first couple of games but I feel like I am starting to find a bit of form now.”

Club captain Flood is moving on at the end of the season and is likely to be used more at inside-centre for the remainder of the campaign, as he did on his return from injury last week against Bath to give Williams a chance to continue in the No.10 shirt.

And with time limited to learn from his clubmate, Williams is relishing any opportunity he gets to pick the brain of both Flood and former England Saxon Ryan Lamb.

“Toby is a big help for me, whenever I want advice he is great and always willing to answer any questions,” he added.

“Paul Burke was a fly-half as well so he has been a big help too, there are a lot of people to learn from.

“I feel I have improved a lot already, I like to be on the front foot, attacking the line, and the more comfortable I get the better that becomes.

“Taking the ball flat to the line is something that I’m working on, I feel like it is something I am strong at but as you get more comfortable you get better.”

Williams may have turned his back on his home region, indeed Scarlets head coach Simon Easterby made no secret of his frustration after the fly-half’s departure, but the desire to play for Wales still burns brightly. He knows he will have to bide his time however, behind Dan Biggar, Rhys Priestland and Rhys Patchell in the pecking order.

Blues fly-half Patchell, who shared playing time at No.10 for Wales U20s with Williams, has been ruled out long term with knee and shoulder complaints, but Williams is not looking too far ahead.

“I would love to play for Wales,” he added. “I mean I would love to be playing for them now but I think it’s a couple of years away yet.

“Leaving Wales was a very tough call to make and it took me a couple of weeks to come to a decision. But I wanted a change in my life, to move away from home and learn.

“This is a great club to come to. There is so much history and we are always challenging for trophies so I am very pleased with the decision I took.”

CHARLIE TALBOT-SMITH

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