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All Black impressed with Magners League standard

Guinness PRO12 Editor

15 Feb 2010


One of the most successful foreign imports to Celtic rugby has spoken of his admiration for the standard of Magners League rugby.

Newport Gwent Dragons captain Tom Willis has been an inspiration since arriving at Rodney Parade in the summer of 2008.

The former All Black hooker featured in all 18 Magners League fixtures in his first season in the UK and has become an instant crowd favourite at the Gwent based region.

And having played domestic rugby with the Highlanders and Chiefs in his native New Zealand, with Western Force in Australia and with Toulon in France, Willis is in the near perfect position to judge the standard of rugby in the Magners League.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the standard,” said Willis, who won five All Black caps in 2002.

“You’ve just got to look at the quality of the players participating in the Magners League.

“If you look at last year’s British & Irish Lions squad, a fair proportion of them were from Magners League clubs.”

And it’s not just the standard of the players within the league that have caught Willis’ eye.

The 30-year-old hooker speaks highly of the attacking nature of the tournament and the closeness of the competing teams, as well the impact that the newly introduced Play Off system will have on the end-of-season run in.

“I’ve been very impressed with the tempo of the game, the quality of the referees and the willingness of the teams to use the ball,” added Willis.

“Also, most bonus-point games with four tries or more come from within the Magners League which is a great indication of what the tournament is all about and the type of rugby it’s producing.

“The fact that it’s so close is the real beauty of the competition. The Play Offs are 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.”

To read more on Tom’s thoughts on the Play Offs themselves, just click here.