Ali Williams, the surprise choice for captain of the Blues and the World Cup-winning All Black lock, opens up about starting a family, his father's accident - and acting the goat.
1. You didn't start playing rugby until you were 17 - did that late start help or hinder your career?
Help I think. I had to learn a lot more and focus more because I couldn't trust my instincts. But really I was just a simple-minded man who wanted to hang out with his mates and find a girlfriend. My mates played rugby and girls watched rugby. They didn't watch soccer.
2. You and Graham Henry didn't get off to a great start in 2004 when he named you as an occasional replacement for the Possibles. Was that hard to stomach?
I've been blessed to have a lot of coaches who told me the truth - Wayne Pivac was one and Graham Henry [another]. He believed I had become an All Black too early and didn't have enough core skills to be a great All Black. It was always about him wanting the best for me. We're still mates. Sometimes I didn't like him but I wouldn't be the rugby player I am without him.
3. What is your greatest strength, both as a player and a man?
I'm physically not the best athlete in the world and mentally probably not the toughest but my desire to have fun and keep coming back for more holds me in good stead, I think. I'm still learning as a human. Still got a lot to learn about myself. And I've still got a lot to give back.
4. What's your greatest weakness?
I've got a s***load of weaknesses and you've only got one back page. But I guess it's situational awareness - sometimes I may be a goat when the time to be a goat is not appropriate. Sometimes at the time to be a goat, I'm a bit more serious. That's one of the bits challenging me as captain.
5. Do you think the public misunderstands you? Or is it just the media?
People have their own judgments or perceptions of me and the reality is I have done something to make them believe that. So there could be a bit of truth in it. There are people who strongly don't like me, people who don't like me, people who are indifferent, people who like me, people who strongly like me. But I don't want to be everyone's friend.
6. Your family went through a difficult time when your father was paralysed years ago. How did his accident affect you?
I still remember the night that he walked out of the house, on his way to an Elton John concert at Ericsson Stadium with my mum [he fell down the stairs and is now in a wheelchair]. I got a call from my mum saying Dad's in hospital. I was 16 - the age that you still need your parents but you are finding your way in the world. It forced me to find my own way a lot quicker but it made me grateful that I got a second chance to still see the old boy every day. And it brought our family a lot closer.
7. You're about to become a dad for the first time. What lessons did you learn from your father that you hope to pass on?
The biggest lesson is that life's not for practice - you only live once. I'm going to stuff up and I'm not scared of that but I'll live with no regrets because I'll try everything and enjoy everything that I do. Dad taught me to live life to the fullest.
8. You never seemed much like the "marriage and babies" type - what changed your mind?
I have always had a desire to build a family because I come from such a strong family myself. It was about finding the right girl and she [wife Casey] is making me a better person. The secret of marriage, I think, is if the man is in a good head space. If you're not comfortable in your own skin how can you give to someone else?
9. Who in your opinion is the greatest All Black of all time?
Richie McCaw is an incredible human being. He has his weaknesses, but people don't know those and to see a man do what he does and sacrifice what he sacrifices to achieve what he does is amazing. He's closely followed by Dan Carter - they're both great in different ways.
10. What have you learned, so far, from John Kirwan?
It's still early days but the fact that he acknowledges he doesn't know everything, and that he can be weak and vulnerable is pretty special. And he's as passionate about Auckland as I am. It's the greatest place in the world to live.
11. How would you like to be remembered as a captain?
Results are about the bringing together of men. One person can't make a difference but get people on the same wavelength with the same collective goal and you can.
12. Do two wins make a Blues winning streak?
No.By Sarah Stuart Email Sarah