Williams-less Blues ‘focused’ on semi

Australian David Nucifora, the coach of New Zealand’s Blues, is adamant that the drama surrounding the dismissal of All Blacks lock Ali Williams is a thing of the past as the underdog Kiwis look ahead to their Super 14 semi-final against the Sharks, in Durban, this Saturday.

Williams – a member of the 22-man All Blacks conditioning programme, which saw him miss the first seven rounds of the season – was sent home in disgrace from Perth because of “behaviour issues”, with young Anthony Boric dispatched to Durban as a replacement.

The controversy and subsequent headlines aside, the loss of a star player such as Williams would be a blow to any side ahead of a play-off match of this nature, although Nucifora prefers, instead, to look ahead.

“We’ve dealt with it,” the Blues boss told this website. “We’ve moved on and we’re focusing on this weekend.”

To make matters worse, 40-Test cap veteran Williams has been joined on the sidelines by influential second five-eighth Luke McAlister – although the latter is unavailable for selection because of a hamstring injury.

“Some people like to say that a side can pull together when they’re facing adversity like this,” said Nucifora, “well, we certainly didn’t need anymore this week – it’s tough enough coming here and winning a semi-final!

“A lot of people are writing us off already, but we’re hoping to prove a few people wrong.”

But despite being without Williams and McAlister, Nucifora has a full squad to select from, including the likes of All Blacks stars Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Joe Rokocoko and Doug Howlett, not to mention skipper Troy Flavell, Daniel Braid, Jerome Kaino, Ise Nacewa and Ice Toeava.

“Everyone else is intact,” confirmed Nucifora. “All we can do is prepare as well as possible; from there it’s all about the 80 minutes ahead of us on Saturday.”

By Howard Kahn 365 Digital

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