Auckland - All Black lock Ali Williams will
captain the Blues during the 2013 Super Rugby season in the absence of
Keven Mealamu, the Auckland-based team said on Monday.
hooker Mealamu is on extended leave and will not return until mid-March
as he recovers from the rigours of a hectic 2012 season with the All
Blacks and the Blues, who finished last in the New Zealand conference.
"I think it's an incredibly important time for Ali Williams," Blues head coach John Kirwan said in a statement.
"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."
Kirwan said the
31-year-old Williams' recent history of injuries was taken into
consideration before selecting the 77-Test veteran for the job.
"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," the coach said after the side's first
official day of pre-season training.
Williams himself was no less excited.
"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."
The Blues kick off their 2013 Super Rugby campaign against the Hurricanes in a February 23 match in Auckland.