By Lee Stace
IT IS quite possible that Ali Williams has played his last test for the All Blacks.
The Blues lock will undergo surgery on his troublesome knee and the initial prognosis is he will be sidelined for eight weeks. That means he will return to action in time to tuck into some ITM Cup footy for Auckland later in the year.
But it is hard to see Williams forcing his way back into the national team, as sadly, he is no longer the player he once was.
There was a time where the 30-year-old was the man in the second row. Rugged and durable, he soared the lineout airways, shifted bodies from the breakdown, tackled strongly and showed great athleticism and ball skills when ranging wide in open play.
As far as locks go, he was the complete package, particularly in 2008, when he was at the peak of his powers.
Now Williams is a shadow of that player. He no longer seems to possess the things which made him such a special force. A double trauma to his Achilles in both 2009 and 2010 put paid to that, and although he did well to make last year’s Rugby World Cup squad, it was clear others had passed him in the pecking order.
The man known as ‘Comical Ali’ was picked in the All Blacks by coach Steve Hansen on reputation after a non-eventful Super Rugby season with the Blues.
However, his output off the bench in the last two of his 75 tests has hardly repaid the faith shown in him by Hansen.
In Christchurch, Williams was brought on to add some much-needed experience and another cool head during what was a difficultly tense match. Instead he conceded a kickable penalty, which was marched forward 10 metres by Nigel Owens after he verbally sprayed the Welsh referee. You could see skipper Richie McCaw was far from impressed.
The timing of Williams’ injury was probably a blessing in disguise. It means he can fall out of the All Blacks set-up without having to suffer the ignominy of being dropped.
Of course, there is every chance that he could rediscover his mojo. This scribe would love nothing more than to see Williams ascending to the top of the mountain that is his form. He is a joy to watch when he is humming.
But on current evidence, that appears unlikely to happen any time soon.
This weekend throws up another set of games which could go either way.
Which player was unlucky not to make the Wallabies’ preliminary squad for the British and Irish Lions series?