Ali Williams quits Test rugby
May 24, 2013
Ali Williams won 77 Test caps © Getty Images
All Blacks lock Ali Williams has announced his retirement from international rugby. Williams, who was part of the All Blacks training camp in Mt Maunganui earlier in the week, took to YouTube to announce his decision, saying "I'm hanging up the black jersey, it's been an amazing 10 years but it's time to call it quits.
The 32-year-old Rugby World Cup 2011 winner played 77 Tests, making his All Blacks debut in 2002 and being a part of the New Zealand Rugby World Cup sides in 2003 and 2007.
He will continue to lead the Blues in Super Rugby for the remainder of the year.
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen congratulated Williams on his career, and said he respected the player's decision to retire on his terms.
"By retiring he is doing what's best for the All Blacks and showing a tremendous amount of integrity by putting the team ahead of himself," Hansen said. "He knew he may have been selected for the All Blacks again this year, but he also knows that it is better for the team to have a younger player in the position. Ali has been a fantastic All Black. He is a player who has always worn his heart on his sleeve, he is a real character who loved being an All Black and wearing the jersey proudly and representing his country, and that's what we love about him. He would have played a lot more games for the team if injuries hadn't robbed him of the opportunity. But it took a lot of courage to come back to top-flight rugby and that is a measure of the man and shows just how much he loves the game."
Selected for Auckland in 2001, he made the Blues side for the next year and was then included in the All Blacks touring team to Britain at the end of 2002. He made his Test debut against England on that tour.
He almost missed the 2003 World Cup after having a pin inserted in a foot after he sustained a stress fracture at a pre-cup training camp. He missed the first two games but played in the remainder of New Zealand's ill-fated campaign.
Williams had to convince Graham Henry, the new All Blacks coach in 2004, that he was worth a place in the side, and missed five Tests but made the end of the season tour. His 2005 season did not get off to an auspicious start when he was banned for six weeks for stomping on Richie McCaw in a Super 12 game. But he was included in the side for the start of the international season, and he displayed against the British & Irish Lions what is generally regarded as the finest form of his career.
Issues at the Blues in the 2007 season resulted in Williams transferring to the Crusaders, but he returned to Auckland in 2009 only to suffer crippling Achilles tendon injuries that denied him almost two years of rugby.
Blues head coach Sir John Kirwan said: "I'm incredibly proud of Ali; it must have been a very difficult decision for him to make. A lot of players at his stage in their career are looking to go overseas, but he really wants to commit to the Blues and stay here and help this young side grow and achieve their goals, which is fantastic. He's been a great All Black and I'm looking forward to him being fully committed and focussed on the Blues and enjoying himself."
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said: "Ali has been one of the great servants of New Zealand rugby and, on behalf of New Zealand Rugby, we congratulate him on his All Blacks career. He still has a lot to offer the game here, is obviously making an outstanding contribution to the Blues and wants to continue doing that which is great for New Zealand rugby."
As Scotland decides its future, Scrum Sevens looks at a group of players who transcended rugby both for country and the British & Irish Lions
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup