New Zealand Rugby
Williams to make Super Rugby return
ESPNscrum Staff
February 17, 2011
Nottingham's Ali Williams awaits the ball, Nottingham v Bristol, RFU Championship, Meadow Lane, Nottingham, England, January 9, 2011
Williams stepped up his rehabilitation with a short spell at English Championship club Nottingham © Getty Images

All Black lock Ali Williams is set for his first Super Rugby appearance in almost two years after being named in the Blues' side to face the Crusaders in Auckland on Saturday.

Williams, 29, spent most of the past two season on the sidelines recovering from two separate Achilles tendon injuries. The 61-Test veteran's return from his latest lengthy spell on the sidelines began with a short stint with English club Nottingham and continued with two pre-season hit-outs with the Blues.

Coach Pat Lam said Williams was ready for his first Super rugby match since May 2009, "otherwise I wouldn't put him there". "He's excited, he's fit and keen to get involved," added Lam.

However, the Blues' boss warned fans not to expect Williams to be back at his best immediately. "He isn't going to be at the best, like a lot of other guys, but I believe he can do a good job for us," he said "There will be a bit of nerves for him -- two years -- but he's excited. He's had two hit-outs, 40 minutes and 50 minutes. There's a bit of confidence there, but excitement is a good word for it."

Meanwhile, Lam has opted to play All Black utility Isaia Toeava at fullback in his 50th game for the Blues, while Northland captain Jared Payne will move from his customary fullback position to be at centre in his first appearance for the franchise after his move from the Crusaders.

The Crusaders will feature three brothers in their line-up with All Black lock Sam Whitelock joined by his siblings George and Adam in the starting 15, while openside flanker Matt Todd will make his debut in place of the injured Richie McCaw. McCaw underwent surgery on a stress fracture to his foot on Tuesday.

Fullback Israel Dagg, who missed the Crusaders' final pre-season hit-out with a thigh injury, will make his first start for the team after moving from the Highlanders. Zac Guildford, who pulled a hamstring in the win over the Highlanders in Oamaru last week, has been replaced on the left wing by Tu Umaga-Marshall.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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