Former All Black lock Ali Williams has revealed details of his 'surprise' call-up to the All Blacks as a 20-year old in 2002.
Williams, writing for rugbypass.com, offered his congratulations to the new All Blacks announced in Steve Hansen's squad for the France series on Sunday, and shared his experiences of getting the call.
"I was 20 years old, I'd only played one year of Super Rugby and one year of provincial rugby," said Williams. "At the end of my first year of NPC in 2001, I'd heard rumblings of 'oh he could be a bolter, he could do this'. My first thought was 'that's unrealistic'.
"I didn't make it in that year, they picked some guy named Chris Jack, but the following year I had a good Super Rugby season – I played a little bit but I wasn't a main starter – and I won the NPC with Auckland. We had a big after-party on Waiheke Island. I'd snuck off to the Portaloo – that's how we do it in New Zealand, we don't have proper toilets sometimes – came back and the team for the All Blacks' End of Year tour had been named.
"There were your regulars, or your guys that were 'shoulder-tapped'. Before, you didn't get shoulder-tapped or you didn't have the communication with the All Black coaches, whereas now it's a lot more obvious that coaches are looking at you when you're called in for a camp in the middle of the season. These guys have had about three camps this year – foundation days – so you can get in and around the environment. Back then we didn't have that.
"So, my name gets called out while I'm on the Portaloo, then I came out and all the guys were giving me a bit of grief, 'Oh yeah, you're in the All Blacks,' you think it's all just tongue-in-cheek. Reality only set in when my coach, Wayne Pivac, came up to me and said 'Look mate, genuinely, you're in there, you've got to assemble tomorrow'. A few weeks later I made my test debut against England."
Williams made headlines last year when he was caught by police trying to buy cocaine while playing for French club Racing 92.
In April last year, he was cut from the French club and was fined $2300 in a Paris court after he was convicted of buying the class A drug.
Following his axing from Racing 92, the 77-test All Black and 2011 World Cup champion and his family returned to New Zealand.