A controversial selection from the outset, Ali Williams
has revealed to the international press that he was told by
Steve Hansen to stand in front of his teammates and explain
what it meant to be among them.
It was an interesting decision by All Blacks coach Hansen,
who this week asked Williams to address the team along with
new boys Dane Coles and Tawera Kerr-Barlow. Not one to lack
confidence, Williams is likely to have spoken eloquently and
emotionally about his opportunity at what is the twilight of
"Shag got me to stand up and say what it means to be in this
team. There were just a few of us he asked," Williams told
the media in Edinburgh ahead Monday's (NZT) test against
"I said 'watching you guys over the Rugby Championship and
the level you took the game to, especially the three locks,
has inspired me to see if I can match that and if not better
"In terms of my career I look at things differently now. For
me it's about this week and only this week. In terms of
looking to the future I no longer do that, I don't want to do
that. I just want to enjoy the moment. If I look too far
ahead I could fall over real quick."
That is probably wise for 31-year-old Williams, who senses
time is running out. Brodie Retallick and Luke Romano have
leapt ahead of him on the locking pecking order and Sam
Whitelock, who has just turned 24, has been the first-choice
All Blacks lock since Brad Thorn departed last year.
Two serious Achilles injuries put the brakes on Williams'
career just as he was about to cement himself as one of the
best locks to have played for the All Blacks.
An excellent lineout technician, he brought a new dimension
to the position with his ball-carrying ability and pace, yet
he also had the bulk and mindset to engage in the physical
A knee injury which required surgery this year was another
knock-back, and prompted many to think his days in an All
Blacks jersey were numbered.
"There's always going to be talking points about my
selection; good bad or indifferent," he said. "At the end of
the day there are a group of guys who have put some faith in
me. It's about me repaying that and adding value to a team
I've been in for so long.
"I'd lie if I said I haven't been frustrated by how my career
is going but it's about how I deal with that and how I come
out the other side.
"I got pretty frustrated a while back," he said of the knee
injury in the middle of the Ireland series. "To be honest it
was probably the worst injury I've had because there's no big
shinning light; there's no big World Cup to chase. It was
about my passion and drive to get back in this jersey. That's
what kept me going."
How much game time Williams gets on this four-test tour
remains to be seen - his big opportunity is likely to come in
the match at Murrayfield or six days later against Italy in
Hansen wanted Williams, who has played 75 tests, in his
32-man squad because of his experience and has already thrust
him into the spotlight. It was a challenge, which Williams
appears to have passed. But that's not the end of it, he
"I'm aiming to get back to where I was."