LEICESTER — Watch Mike Williams on the pitch and you’ll see a physical, hard-working forward hitting rucks and making tackles.
Off it though, the Zimbabwean-born Leicester Tigers flanker has developed a love of clay pigeon shooting and a barbecue club.
The problem for Williams though, is that he has had all too much time to enjoy his hobbies, with three broken arms in the space of two years hampering his progression at Welford Road.
Broken bones but not spirit
That’s not to say he hasn’t impressed for the Tigers. They wouldn’t have offered him a new contract this week had he not impressed so much despite the fractures.
For Williams (26), that frustrating injury is behind him and he admits it’s a relief to be able to focus on the pitch and his future with Leicester, as well as England, having been called up by Eddie Jones last year only for injury to force him to withdraw.
“After the third break I went and saw some bone specialists down in London,” said Williams, who joined Leicester from Worcester in 2015.
“The medical staff here organised for me to meet some of the best people on that side of things with bones and breaks and plates and that sort of thing.
“I saw the right people and a bone specialist in London who put me on some medication for three months so luckily now that stuff has worked and I’ve been back about a year. Christmas Eve last year was my first game back so I think all those things are behind me.
“Leicester have been so good to me over the couple of years I’ve been here, with my injury problems and all that stuff so it was a pretty easy decision to make and I was very happy to hear they wanted to keep me on. I’m delighted to be here for another two seasons.
“Pretty much from days at Worcester, I wanted to play for a top four club. It started well when I joined the Tigers, I unfortunately picked up that injury but I’ve still been lucky enough to play 30-odd games for the club in the last two and a half seasons now. It was definitely the best decision I’ve ever made coming here, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here.
“I also still have goals of achieving that cap one day so we’ll have to see how I get on with that and getting back to how I was playing before I got chosen for that team.”
After making a big impact on arrival at Leicester, Williams’ progress was stopped in its tracks by the arm injury, forcing him to take an extended break on the sidelines.
Thankfully for him, he was able to keep himself busy, most notably through his friendship with world champion clay pigeon shooter Ben Husthwaite.
“I’ve got a lot of hobbies which got me through that injury period. I really enjoy my clay pigeon shooting so throughout that year I did a lot of clay pigeon shooting,” he added.
“I’ve got a very good mate, Ben Husthwaite, who is a world champion clay pigeon shooter who took me on some game days which was nice and I got to experience that.
“I play a bit of golf on the side as well. It’s nice to go to Portugal in pre-season and play some golf. Geordan Murphy is up there as the best at Tigers.
“You have Brendon O’Connor as well, I’ve played 20 or 30 rounds with him and I’m still yet to beat him so he’s a decent one. I’ve got to show him how it’s done with the clay pigeon shooting and then we’ll be even.”
Southern African fraternity
Born in Zimbabwe and having played much of his age group career in South Africa, Williams has friends throughout the Aviva Premiership.
From former teammates like Jono Ross and Faf de Klerk at Sale, to fellow Zimbabweans like Dave Ewers and Don Armand at Exeter, there is quite the community in the English game.
And while the weather might not be as good, that doesn’t mean the barbecue won’t come out.
Williams added: “I played under Victor Matfield in Super Rugby, although unfortunately he was injured when he came over to play for Northampton. But we still managed to have some barbecues with Victor and Jean de Villiers when he was here so that was nice.
“There’s a great bunch of guys around the league and the barbecue comes out when it’s sunny. There are a couple around the country, Pat Cilliers, in particular, who leaves it out all year round. He manages to do it under the umbrella, which is nice.”