Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

100 Greatest All Blacks: Ali Williams

Somewhere along his rugby journey after one of his lapses, Ali Williams remarked that he lacked situational awareness. It was an expression to camouflage his poor judgment.

It was hard not to talk about Ali Williams' rugby ability and the chapters of excellence in his 77 tests without detouring into one of his annoying indiscretions.

His prime performances came in the 2005 series with the Lions when he dominated the tight sections of the field to help the All Blacks to a comprehensive series triumph.

He was a lineout champion with a strong tactical grasp whose game had all the venom needed for battles at the pinnacle of the sport.

Williams' story had layers of intrigue mixed with a bold attitude sparked after an accident left his father in a wheelchair. Not long after Williams switched from soccer to rugby and five years later made his All Black test debut against England.

His career was blighted in its later stages with Achilles tendon and knee problems but Williams managed to return for a winner's medal at his third World Cup in 2011 and a year captaining the Blues before he took up a contract with Toulon.

In between he was sent home from a Blues tour of South Africa for misbehavior. It was not quite a Keith Murdoch moment but serious enough to force Williams to re-assess his life with a year down at the Crusaders.

He goofed off badly in public in the later weeks of the 2011 World Cup.

Williams enjoyed playing the fool and often said he was not scared about making mistakes but he did not always enjoy good timing. On both occasions, teammates told him his judgment was poor.

But that was Williams, loads of talent, boots and all, have a go and always come up smiling.

Statistics
Date of birth: 30 April 1981
Position: Lock
Matches: 78
Tests: 77
Test debut: 9 November 2002 v England, London
Last test: 17 November 2012 v Italy, Rome
Province: Auckland
Franchises: Blues, Crusaders
Test tries: 7
Test points: 35

- NZ Herald

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