It was great to hear All Blacks lock Ali Williams ‘bigging-up’ Nottingham Rugby Club this week.
Less than a week before the Kiwi’s first game in the World Cup on home soil, one of rugby’s most recognisable second-rowers was saying how valuable his spell with us was in getting him back to the top of his game.
Ali was a top bloke when he was with us.
He had been troubled by injury for a good 18 months before he came over to play with us and he was very focused on getting back to fitness and spending his time wisely.
Our director of rugby Glenn Delaney is a Kiwi and his connections helped set up what we all thought was an incredible signing. Ali came here because he could guarantee the game time he needed in the Championship – something he couldn’t have done at a Premiership club.
It was planned exactly what he was going to do during the four games with us. He would play 20 minutes first game, then 40 in the second, followed by an hour, then a full 80.
He did exactly that and his fitness improved with every appearance.
He was a real student of the game and was a tremendous help to the team, discussing things we did with the coaching staff and players and suggesting areas which could be improved upon. He will be a good coach one day.
He also made it quite clear that from the first day he was there, he wanted to be treated like one of the lads.
As fine-master, I took pounds off him for having the wrong kit on at certain times. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t even have in his possession, half the kit the rest of us had – but he still paid up.
He was a rugby superstar yet he really mucked in and was part of the team like anyone else.
I often compare rugby to football. Could you imagine something similar happening in that sport?
No, me neither.
You can read more about Ali Williams at his own site.