Williams to captain Blues
Veteran All Blacks lock Ali Williams will captain the Blues in next year's Super Rugby tournament, succeeding hooker Keven Mealamu who is taking an extended break from rugby.
New head coach John Kirwan named Williams as captain on Monday, saying the 31-year-old veteran of 77 Tests was the ideal man for the job.
The Blues are looking to improve from last year's disappointing season with odds at 14/1 at them winning the title next year in the Paddy Power rugby betting markets.
The appointment of Williams, however, is likely to polarise rugby betting fans.
While he is Auckland's second-most experienced player with 101 Super Rugby caps, he has been dubbed "Comical Ali" for his often anarchic sense of humour.
Williams once attended a scheduled Blues news conference dressed in a Spiderman outfit.
"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," said Kirwan.
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 and some people think he's finished. I don't believe that and neither does he," he said.
"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."