Ali Williams will play his first game for Auckland in five years when they face North Harbour in the Battle of the Bridge on Sunday afternoon.

The 75-test All Black lock's last game in the blue and white hoops was in 2007, and he can't wait to return to the fold following another lengthy spell on the sidelines.

"The knee feels good," Williams said.

"I'm aiming to play at least 40 minutes, I'm not sure how the lungs are going to hold up but it'll be good to get out there.


"2007 is a long time ago but I've come back here, I've got a coach that initially picked me from club rugby 11 or 12 years ago and it's a refreshing environment to be in. These young guys are having so much fun yet when they're asked to flick the switch they flick it so I think that's a sign of a good system that's working."

Williams admitted his latest injury was the hardest to overcome, but now he's back he is still passionate about reclaiming his spot in the All Blacks.

The addition of Williams in place of Andrew Van der Heijden is one of four changes to the starting XV for Sunday's derby.

Auckland captain Daniel Braid will make his first start since round one after a groin tear and Pauliasi Manu replaces Ofa Tu'ungafasi, who broke his thumb during last week's game against Counties Manukau.

In the backs, Lolagi Visinia will make his first start for Auckland in place of Dave Thomas who moves to the bench.

Auckland head coach Wayne Pivac dismissed any suggestions his side would be complacent against North Harbour who are currently rooted to the bottom of the ITM Cup Championship table.

"I think Waikato sent a message out to everybody that anyone on their day with the right motivation can go out there and get the job done," Pivac said.

Auckland: Charles Piutau, Ben Lam, Malakai Fekitoa, Hadleigh Parkes, Lolagi Visinia, Gareth Anscombe, Alby Mathewson, Joe Edwards, Daniel Braid (captain), Steven Luatua, Ali Williams, Liaki Moli, Angus Ta'avao, Tom McCartney, Pauliasi Manu. Reserves: Nathan Vella, Siosiua Halonukonuka, Nathan Hughes, Nepia Fox-Matamua, Scott Patterson, Simon Hickey, Dave Thomas.