- Nottingham claim small bite of World Cup glory
- Ali Williams lifts Webb Elis trophy for All Blacks
Photo: Getty Images
RFU Championship club Nottingham can claim a little bit of reflected World Cup glory having helped All Blacks lock Ali Williams on the road back to fitness.
Williams spent more than two years in the international wilderness because of a career threatening injuries to his right ankle which required three operations. But a month spent playing for Nottingham back in January set him on the road to recovery.
Nottingham’s New Zealand director of rugby Glenn Delaney agreed to a request from New Zealand coach Graham Henry to take Williams on a short term contract and the four games he played for them, starting with a 20 minute appearance as a replacement in the win at Moseley’s windswept ground in Birmingham on New Year’s Day, helped to restore the lock’s confidence.
“I was fed up hearing about this injured rugby player. Ali just needed some game time to get some of the demons out of his mind,” Delaney said.
“I knew from the player he was before he suffered the injuries that he was a world-class player, we just took a softly-softly approach in getting him used to playing rugby again and building up his confidence.
“It was only a brief spell that he had with us but I think that we played a small part in helping him get on to that winners’ podium at Eden Park on Sunday.
“He’s a world-class second row and I think he showed that when he came on against France. He played a massive part in the win, particularly in controlling the ball during those last three minutes.
“It was fantastic to see how genuinely elated he was at the final whistle . Having been through two years where he hardly played any rugby at all, he’s just enjoying playing again.”
He didn't get any favours - Delaney
Williams was treated as a normal player during his stint with Nottingham and was even fined by Delaney for breaking the club’s strict dress code.
“We got money off him don’t you worry,” Delaney said. “He didn’t get any favours. We have a strict code about the players wear each day and he turned up one day wearing the wrong socks so we fined him.”
Williams also fumbled his first line-out on his return after almost a year out of action, an unpromising start to a memorable year that culminated in him helping New Zealand win their first World Cup in 24 years.
“Before the Moseley match he told me that he wouldn’t call the first line out to himself but the excitement of playing again got the better of him,” Delaney said.
“He charged on, called the first line out to himself and Moseley’s Richard Stott went up and pulled it off him. He admitted he got it wrong afterwards but it was nice to see his sheer joy at playing again.”
Delaney caught up with Williams during a trip back to New Zealand in May and the two men have kept in contact throughout the World Cup.
“We are proud of him and proud that he came to Nottingham in the right way, with no airs and graces,” Delaney said.
“He’s a good bloke and a good rugby bloke. The good thing is that he enjoyed his time with us, he has kept in touch and he has said that we might well see him again, even if it is not as a player.”