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Play Offs a winning formula for Willis

Guinness PRO12 Editor

29 Jan 2010


Newport Gwent Dragons captain Tom Willis believes the introduction of the Play Off system is already having a hugely positive impact on the Magners League.

Former All Black hooker Willis, who joined the Dragons at the start of last season, has no doubt that crowning the Magners League Champions after a semi-final and Grand Final is the right way forward.

“The play-offs are a fantastic addition,” said Willis, who has plenty of experience of play-off competition from his career in the southern hemisphere.

“Last year we had one team out at the front of the league and no one could catch them.

“This time, it gives all those teams that are hanging around mid-table a real sniff of going all the way.

“You’ve just got to make it to that fourth spot and a semi-final and then it’s all on the day.

“If you finish anywhere from one to four, you’re capable of winning, and that obviously couldn’t be said last year.”

The Dragons currently sit seventh in the Magners League standings, meaning challenging for top honours under the old rules would have been a near impossible task.

But the advent of the Play Off system means that is no longer the case.

With the top seven sides separated by just eight points and with just three points between the Dragons and a coveted Play-Off spot, the scene is set for what should be hugely-exciting climax to the Celtic season.

And just like the majority of other sides in this year’s competition, Willis insists the Dragons have realistic ambitions of finishing the season as Magners League Champions.

“The fact that it’s so close is the beauty of the competition. It’s going to make for a really interesting end to the season – there’s going to be some really desperate sides looking to play some quality rugby,” added Willis.

“It’s fair to say that we got off to a flying start and had some confidence and some genuine momentum in our game but in recent weeks we’ve hit a wee bit of a speed bump so to speak so we’re really looking forward to jumping back into the Magners League and building up that momentum again and finishing off the season on a high.

“It was fantastic to start well. Everyone likes winners – winners are grinners. We were heading down that path. But we’ve slowed down a wee bit and the challenge for us to find that route again and really keeping gunning towards that semi-final territory.

“We don’t want to look too much into who’s first or fourth in the Welsh situation – we’re focusing on the league itself.

“There’s no denying that we’ve got an eye on finishing as high up the ladder as we can and even gaining a semi-final place.”