'Comical' Ali Williams shows his serious side

Last updated 05:00 06/11/2012
Ali Williams
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ALI WILLIAMS: "There's always going to be talking points about my selection; good bad or indifferent. At the end of the day there are a group of guys who have put some faith in me. It's about me repaying that and adding value to a team I've been in for so long."

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Ali Williams' speeches won't change the minds of his detractors.

They won't make the clock wind back to a time when he was the most dominant and athletic lock in world rugby.

But in Edinburgh this week they did provide a glimpse of why All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has taken a leap of faith in the 31-year-old Aucklander.

There were no Spiderman suits, no outlandish jokes or piffy arguments with the inquisitors.

Instead it was a measured, mature and honest Williams who fronted the media alongside veteran hooker Keven Mealamu.

A few minutes earlier Williams joined rookies Dane Coles and Tawera Kerr Barlow in standing in front of their teammates and saying what the All Black jersey meant to him.

It must have been a pertinent moment. Ten years after his test debut Williams is attempting to make a fresh start.

He knows it may be brief, four weeks to be precise if he cannot do something to show the "carcass" that's refused to cooperate for much of the past four years.

But he is desperate to repay the faith Hansen has placed in him and will give every ounce to do so however slim his window.

Williams is known to have been distraught after the All Blacks last gasp June win over Ireland, tearful by one account in Christchurch, when he received news he would need knee surgery.

After his ill-disciplined cameo his All Black career flashed before his eyes.

The critics have been unrelenting. Williams has been written off as a charity case in many quarters, a clown in others. He's brought some of that on himself over the years.

But on Sunday in an Edinburgh hotel he was neither as he told his teammates and the media how much he loves the All Blacks.

That he will serve the team anyway he can, that he will fight for his jersey, but give 100 per cent support to the three younger men in front of him.

One of those, Sam Whitelock spoke of the presence his senior locking partner has brought to the team's dynamic in the past week.

He was still the "class clown" and brought welcome levity to a tense environment putting "smiles on the guy's faces".

More importantly Williams had shown an ability to be serious at the right time and when he did speak had been "right on the money".

It was the sort of input only vast experience could provide, Whitelock said.

What remains to be seen is whether Comical Ali can still play, but there's no doubt he's grasped his situation and that he is not taking it for granted.

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That won't be enough for some. The reality is many are sharpening their swords in the hope he crashes and burns.

It's a situation Williams may not be able to change, but it is to his credit that he's accepted the challenge.

"At the end of the day people will only ever judge me by how I go on the field and how I hold myself off the field. Perfect," he said.

- Stuff

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