- Exeter prop explains his love of baking
- Williams battlling Holmes for the Chiefs’ No.3 shirt
His day job may be one of the most physical in modern sport but with a love of perfect sponges, exquisite tarts, breathtaking breads and of course Mary Berry, it is safe to say Exeter Chiefs’ Harry Williams is not your average prop forward.
At 6’4” and almost 21 stone, the 25-year-old long-haired tighthead certainly fits the bill to be one of the most promising front-rowers in the country, and Williams is putting the pressure on World Cup finalist Greg Holmes for the Chiefs’ No.3 shirt.
Mel and Sue's wordplay has improved threefold, clearly they've worked on it a lot in the off season and are reaping the rewards now.— Harry Williams. (@HarryWilliams91) September 28, 2016
And with a Premiership final already under his belt and a growing legion of online fans thanks to his live-tweeting of The Great British Bake-Off, Williams is rapidly becoming one of the league’s brightest young stars.
Mary Berry or Lord Sugar?
If rugby is his livelihood, BBC’s Great British Bake-Off is Williams’ passion and his twitter page (@HarryWilliams91) is something to behold when the show is aired.
A love of sweet treats is clearly in the Exeter DNA with the infamous forwards’ ‘Cookie Club’ still going strong, although when challenged to a recent bake-off of his own with fellow front-rower Alec Hepburn, Williams admits things did not go to plan.
“I’m a big GBBO fan,” he said. “But the video we did actually showed me for the fool I am. I have no technical experience baking cakes, pies, or anything else for that matter – although I’m still qualified to comment on other people’s efforts!
“I don’t know where the love of the show came from, but one day I just started tweeting about the Bake Off and the rest is history.
“I’m backing Jane or Candice to win this year; my heart says Candice, my head says Jane, but I can’t decide yet.
“The Apprentice has started this week as well and it’s all very exciting. It’s on at the same time as Hunted through and it’s all about the live tweets, so I’m not sure what I’ll do going forward.”
Made in Jersey
Don’t let the love of baking fool you, Williams takes his craft as a rugby player seriously.
And while Exeter boast English starlets Henry Slade, Jack Nowell, and Sam Hill amongst their ranks, Williams may have slipped under the radar even for the keenest Premiership fans.
He was recruited from Championship outfit Jersey’s infamous ‘prop school’ last summer, and started the Chiefs’ Premiership final defeat to Saracens at the end of his first full season at Sandy Park."Playing in Jersey taught me some humility as you can’t get too big for your boots there"
And with Jersey also wheeling clubmate Elvis Taione, Newcastle Falcons’ Sam Lockwood, and Richard Barrington of Saracens off the front-row production line in recent years, Williams hopes his time there has given him a competitive edge.
“It does give you something,” he said. “I am slightly different to some players as I had to cut all ties with [boyhood club] Wasps to go to Jersey, and doing that is not as posh as being part of a Premiership club.
“It’s a different game in the Championship. The league is very set-piece orientated, and there’s a lot slugfests down there.
“But playing in Jersey taught me some humility as you can’t get too big for your boots there, and there is a forwards culture at the club.
“A lot of that was to do with Steve Boden who has now left the club who put a big emphasis on scrimmaging, but it’s part of the island – they love their rolling mauls and the scrums moving forwards.”
No muddy boots in the living room
Exeter Chiefs’ boast of a team spirit that trumps their Premiership rivals, and this is a philosophy not lost on Williams – so much so that he also lives with three of his teammates.
And while the Bake Off is now also an unmissable feature of Wednesday nights for Alec Hepburn, Sam Hill and Stu Townsend in their Aylesbeare home, so are the Chiefs’ poker evenings.
“Sam owns the house and a lot of the boys actually live together,” said Williams.
“It makes a big difference. If you’re all such a big part of each other’s lives it makes it easier to put yourself on the line for each other. I haven’t been at a club where it has been to this extent before.
“We host poker night at ours every Wednesday, and if there was a leaderboard I’d be topping it with interest.
“Sam has a series of loose ground-rules that he doesn’t want disobeyed; no eating in the lounge, shoes on the rack and that kind of thing – which even if it’s a pain sometimes makes for a more pleasant living environment. It’s a worthwhile sacrifice."
Aside from TV watching and poker playing in the comfort of their own home, Williams admits his teammates also take advantage of Devon’s surf scene.
And while he may not be donning his wetsuit regularly to brave the choppy English waters, Williams revealed skills coach Ricky Pellow is a budding Kelly Slater."They seem to think they are in Hawaii with massive 50ft waves when in fact they are down Exmouth riding a one-footer"
He said: “They all go off surfing. I don’t really get the whole surfing trend down in south-west England – they seem to think they are in Hawaii with massive 50ft waves when in fact they are down Exmouth riding a one-footer!
“I’m not really a part of that, I’m more of an urban aristocrat and spend my time in the city’s coffee shops.
“Sam Hill, James Short, Jonny Atkins, Ollie Atkins, and Alec Hepburn are the ones that go – I think Alec’s quite light on his feet for a prop actually and likes the surfer image as well.
“Ricky Pellow is also meant to be really good, I’m told he can do a handstand on the board which I found very hard to believe.”
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