POWERFUL Worcester Warriors flanker Mike Williams is swiftly becoming one of the first names on Dean Ryan’s team-sheet.

The 22-year-old Bulawayo-born forward has made a barnstorming start to the new Greene King IPA Championship campaign.

Williams scored his maiden first-team try in Warriors’ opener against Bristol and gave another impressive display against Moseley.

“It was nice for me to get over the whitewash for the first time,” said Williams, who has worn the number six jersey in both matches.

“I have been used as a bit of a ball carrier and getting over the gain line.

“I have always, pretty much, seen myself as playing at number four.

“But with injuries last year, I got put into six in the LV Cup and I did play a bit of six at the Bulls as well so it was nothing really new for me,” added Williams.

“I performed at six in the LV Cup and I found myself staying there.

“But I don’t just see myself at six or four— I like to see myself as a utility because I can be a useful player in the future.

“I look at last year as a pretty good season for me and I got given a massive opportunity and a good backing by Dean Ryan.

“I am just using this year as another stepping stone for the growth of my game and as a player.”

Williams made 25 appearances for Warriors last term after moving from Vodacom Super Rugby franchise the Blue Bulls, where he had been playing for the club’s academy side, known as the Tuks.

Due to an ancestry visa via his late grandfather on his mother’s side, Williams is an English qualified player who will be able to apply for a British passport.

“Being brought up and born in Zimbabwe I struggled being in South Africa and not being able to get a work permit,”

he said.

“But being an English qualified player, Worcester made me a great offer and coming to the club was one the best things I have ever done.”

Warriors’ new captain, Gerrit-Jan van Velze, is someone that Williams had looked up to as a junior making his way in South African rugby.

“When I was a junior I always looked up to GJ as the captain and playing all the super rugby that he did.

“I knew him for a few months when I was at the Bulls and I think he had already signed for Northampton. I knew from when I was at the Bulls what a good leader he was.”

Meanwhile, another back-rower, Mat Gilbert, is trying to seize an opportunity at Sixways after being released by Premiership Bath.

Gilbert, who has won 11 caps for the England Deaf rugby team, played for Worcester Cavaliers in Monday’s ‘A’ League win against Gloucester United.

“Mat was released from Bath and we know a couple of lads who know him,”

explained Warriors director of rugby Dean Ryan.

“He hadn’t played for eight or nine months and asked if he could come and get himself fit – and we said yes.

“People who take opportunities have a great chance here and he didn’t do a bad job at sticking down a marker.

“It’s nice having someone as calm and as good as Mat.

“We looked a really good side. Hopefully, he will hang around a bit longer and, hopefully, he will play again. If he keeps doing what he’s doing, we will have to have more conversations.”