Ali Williams to captain the Blues
It looks like it's time for old Comical Ali to start getting serious about his rugby.
Thirty-one-year old All Black lock Ali Williams was today announced as the Blues captain for 2013, with coach Sir John Kirwan declaring the injury-ravaged international the ideal man for the job.
Kirwan made the announcement to the team as they assembled for the first official day of pre-season training.
It's an interesting call with Williams not always regarded as the most focused of individuals. He's been nicknamed Comical Ali for liking a laugh in his dealings with the media. At last year's World Cup he famously put on a two-man routine with namesake Sonny Bill Williams which fell as flat as the Blues formline over the last few seasons.
But Kirwan likes the experience and harder edge that Williams now possesses and says, in the absence of the unavailable Keven Mealamu, the 77-test veteran is the right man to lead this rebuilding project at the franchise.
He believes the responsibility and challenge will bring out the best in the rangy second-rower as he fights to prolong his test career.
Williams is the second most experienced player in the squad with 101 Super Rugby caps, and assumes the reins from Mealamu who has relinquished the captaincy after extending his off-season leave period.
"I think it's an incredibly important time for Ali Williams," said Kirwan.
"He's a 77-test veteran who has been a big part of the Blues. He's had some interesting experiences but he really cares about this place and I believe he's the right man to lead this team.
"It's a great challenge for him and one I'm sure he'll relish."
Kirwan said he was not fazed by Williams' recent history of injuries, and felt the 2.02m lock was ready to prove his doubters wrong.
"He's had a bad run of injuries but I think he's ready for this because he's had a bad run and some people think he's finished. I don't believe that and neither does he.
"He's got a heck of a lot to offer this franchise. He's a world-class lock with the ability to lead a team."
Williams, who returned from England yesterday following the All Blacks' end-of-year tour, said it was an honour to captain a side he was so passionate about.
"It's an extremely tough job and I respect that," he said. "There have been many great leaders of this team before me and my job along with the team is to strengthen the strong traditions that the Blues have."
Blues CEO Andy Dalton said Williams' experience would be crucial to a relatively inexperienced squad.
"It's a young and exciting squad we have, so with Keven out for the first few weeks, experience and leadership is more crucial than ever," he said.