A witness to Paris drug arrest of Ali Williams has described the moment the former All Black was handcuffed and taken away by police outside a celebrity nightclub frequented by stars such as Mick Jagger, Mariah Carey and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Australian news website news.com.au reported the comments of barman working across the road from the L'arc nightclub when Williams and former Wallabies star James O'Connor were arrested on suspicion of attempting to buy cocaine about 3am Saturday (3pm Saturday NZT).

"I was cleaning the chairs out here and I saw the police go and talk to these two guys," the man told News Corp.

"There was one blond guy and a tall guy. They went to a car. The tall guy went into the car, then he came back to his friend."

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The pair walked towards the doorway of L'arc on the Place de l'Etoile but police moved in before they could get inside, the man said.

"They tried to go back to the club but the police caught them and handcuffed them."

news.com.au also reported that O'Connor, 26, has been released from a drunks holding cell in Paris and into another cell after being detained on suspicion of attempting to buy cocaine.

The fate of Williams, a 77-cap All Black who now plays for champion French club Racing 92, is not known.

Ali Williams drinking from the Webb Ellis cup after the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup final over France at Eden Park in Auckland in 2011. Photo / AP
Ali Williams drinking from the Webb Ellis cup after the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup final over France at Eden Park in Auckland in 2011. Photo / AP

French news website La Depeche reported tonight that Williams, 35, was spotted in a car with two dealers as an alleged cocaine transaction took place, while O'Connor was described by a police source as "watching".

"When checked by plainclothes policemen, the New Zealander tried to get rid of the drug while one of the two dealers questioned admitted selling cocaine for €180 [$263]."

They were said to be in possession of two grams of cocaine, La Depeche reported.

After their arrest, the pair could be held in custody for up to 24 hours.

Under French law they must be released after that point, unless there were specific circumstances which would justify an additional 24 hours, Fairfax reported.

Drug use carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison in France or a €3750 ($5500) fine.

Users can also be ordered to attend drug awareness programmes or to undergo court-ordered therapy.

James O'Connor, pictured in 2011, was reportedly standing outside the car. Photo / File
James O'Connor, pictured in 2011, was reportedly standing outside the car. Photo / File

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman said MFat was aware of Williams' arrest, but as of last night the New Zealand Embassy in Paris had not been approached for consular assistance.

New Zealand Rugby refused to comment on the allegations, saying it didn't have access to all the information about the arrest and would not say any more because Williams was no longer contracted to NZR.

But general manager Neil Sorensen said NZR took the issue of illicit drugs "very seriously".

"In our last players' collective agreement we introduced a new illicit drugs test regime and we promote and expect drug-free sport."

Former All Black coaches during Williams' playing career, Sir Graham Henry and Wayne Smith, and All Black selector and former Blues' coach Grant Fox, whose tenure coincided with some of Williams' time playing for the Auckland Super Rugby side, did not want to comment.

The two rugby stars were reportedly taken into custody and were heavily intoxicated when they were arrested, according to French media.

Two suspected dealers were also arrested.

Former All Black Ali Williams poses on the deck of a boat in the Mediterranean in 2015. Photo / Instagram
Former All Black Ali Williams poses on the deck of a boat in the Mediterranean in 2015. Photo / Instagram

Racing 92 said Williams would not be considered for selection until the matter was resolved.

"A player of Racing 92 is at the heart of an investigation into the possession of cocaine. If the investigation confirmed the possession of cocaine and the transaction, it would not only be against the law but also a serious breach of our ethics."

The club apologised to its partners and fans.

The arrests come days after Racing 92 player and former All Black Dan Carter was forced to apologise for "a massive error of judgment" after he allegedly failed a drink-driving test in France.

It's not Williams first brush with controversy.

In 2007 while in South Africa with club side Blues he was sent home for "disciplinary problems", including late-night drinking sessions and a lack of respect for team management.

O'Connor has not played for Australia since 2013 when he was stood down by the ARU after a drunken row that saw him escorted out of Perth Airport. He now plays for the French club Toulon.

Herald sports columnist Chris Rattue has come out in support for the pair, describing them as "two more victims" of drug laws.

"When drugs are an issue in people's lives, it is a health issue. It should not be a legal one," Rattue said.