Ali Williams is expected to be back playing for Auckland in the second half of the provincial rugby season.
Auckland coach Wayne Pivac named his 26-man squad for this year’s NPC today and although Williams’ name wasn’t on the list, he expects the 75-test veteran to be donning the blue and white hooped jersey this season.
Williams injured his knee in the second All Blacks test against Ireland, in Christchurch and needed to have an operation.
The recovery has been slower than expected and he was left out of the All Blacks squad for the Rugby Championships to recuperate.
But Pivac says he’s anticipating having Williams on board later this season.
Williams hasn’t played for Auckland since the third game of the 2007 season when they beat Bay of Plenty 41-3.
In total, Williams has played just 31 games for Auckland since making his debut in 2001.
"Ali is very keen to be involved," Pivac said.
"Obviously he is frustrated, like any player is who had a serious injury and had to rehab again.
"He certainly hasn’t thrown the towel in and is keen to get back into the fray as soon as possible.
"He is at a stage where he is nowhere near the training field, so he is rehabbing behind the scenes and at the appropriate time he’ll join us.
"That will be determined by the rehab and how that’s going.
"I would expect him to be available later on, towards the back end of the season, but that’s something we’ll just keep getting updated on."
There is just one Ponsonby player in the Auckland squad, Gareth Anscombe, while the experience comes from Alby Mathewson, Tom McCartney, Steve Fualau, Andrew Van der Heijden and captain Daniel Braid.
The 31-year-old Braid will lead the team for the third successive season and with 92 caps to his name should reach the century mark this season.
"It’s something that I looked at when I came back here [from the Reds]," Braid said.
"I’d hoped to have got it last year, but my neck injury ruled me out and I only played two games.
"A lot of the guys I started playing with, Angus Macdonald, Brent Ward, Brad Mika we looked at a board that had the names of it of all of the guys that had played 100 games.
"We didn’t think any of us would get there because that’s how it was in the modern game.
"But if I get there it will be huge for me."
Following a disastrous campaign for the Blues, most of the Auckland squad will be looking for a fresh start in provincial rugby and they boast a squad that could go all of the way this year.
"It is great to be back in this environment," said Braid.
"It has a different feel to Super Rugby, there are a lot more younger guys coming through.
"A lot of guys here have got a lot to prove after a disappointing [Blues] season and a lot of guys are playing for contracts and their careers."
Auckland squad: Gareth Anscombe, Daniel Braid, Auvasa Faleali’i, Malakai Fekitoa, Tony Fenner, Steve Fualau, Nathan Hughes, Ben Lam, Steven Luatua, Pauliasi Manu, Alby Mathewson, Tom McCartney, George Moala, Liaki Moli, Albert Nikoro, Hadleigh Parkes, Sean Polwart, Charles Piutau, Peter Saili, Angus Ta’avao, Joe Tupe, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Dave Thomas, Andrew Van der Heijden, Nathan Vella, Lolagi Visinia.
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