The Blues on Monday named veteran lock Ali Williams as captain for the 2013 season, with coach John Kirwan saying it will give the 77-Test veteran a chance to prove his doubters wrong.
Kirwan said Williams’ predecessor Keven Mealamu had relinquished the skipper’s armband as he takes an extended break following the All Blacks’ European tour, which will see him miss the start of the season.
Williams, 31, has struggled with injuries and form over the past 12 months but Kirwan said his experience made him the right man to lead the three-time champions, who finished a disappointing 12th on the ladder this year.
“It’s a great challenge for him and one I’m sure he’ll relish,” said Kirwan, who took over as coach in July.
While Kirwan had taken into account Williams’ recent history of injuries, he said the 2.02m lock was ready to take on the responsibility of captaining the side and proving his doubters wrong.
“He’s had a bad run of injuries but I think he’s ready for this. Because he’s had a bad run… some people think he’s finished – I don’t believe that and neither does he.”
Williams is the second most experienced player in the 2013 Blues squad with 101 Super Rugby caps.
“I think it’s an incredibly important time for Ali Williams,” Kirwan said.
“He’s a 77-Test veteran who has been a big part of the Blues.
“He’s had some interesting experiences in the past but he really cares about this place and I believe he’s the right man to lead this team. It’s a great challenge for him and one I’m sure he’ll relish.
“I think he’s got a heck of a lot to offer this franchise, he’s a world class lock with the ability to lead a team and I’m extremely enthusiastic and positive about this decision.”
Williams, who returned from England on Sunday following the All Blacks’ end of year tour, said it was an honour to captain a side he was so passionate about.
“I am a hugely passionate man when it comes to the Blues and it is a great honour to lead the team next year,” Williams said.
“It’s an extremely tough job and I respect that. There have been many great leaders of this team before me and my job along with the team is to strengthen the strong traditions that the Blues have.”
Blues CEO Andy Dalton said Williams’ experience would be crucial to a young and relatively inexperienced squad.
“It’s a young and exciting squad we have, so with Keven out for the first few weeks, experience and leadership is more crucial than ever,” Dalton said.
“With Ali having played more than 100 Super Rugby games he brings both to the team and will build on that to meet the high expectations that come with being a Blues captain.”