ALI Williams yesterday did a good job of hiding his emotion after being named in the New Zealand team to face Scotland on Sunday, but admitted to The Scotsman that he had a special reason for praying that Graham Henry did not choose this week to rest the All Blacks' No1 lock forward.
Henry named a side close to full-strength, but has opted to rest a first-choice player from each row of the scrum. Williams was delighted it was Jack and not him who gave way to Reuben Thorne in the second row change. His father Ronald, who hails from London, suffered a spinal injury ten years ago when he fell down stairs at an Elton John concert in Auckland and has been confined to a wheelchair ever since. Next week, he will make his first trip back to the UK since the accident, and travel to the game with his wife Helen and mother-in-law Doreen, who comes from the Borders town of Galashiels.
Williams told The Scotsman: "I want to play in all the games, of course, but especially this one at Murrayfield because my parents are coming over for it. My old man is hauling that old wheelchair of his over and my grandma, my mum, and all the relatives will be there, so this one will really mean a lot to me.
"I haven't actually played against Scotland or at Murrayfield, because I was rested in 2005 so, personally, I'm quite pleased that the World Cup is sending us over there.
"My grandmother is still in Carlisle, and she and my dad and mum have done a lot of travelling to watch me, and I can't put into words how much I appreciate that. And for him to say he is coming to Scotland is going to be pretty amazing. He has never been back up here since the accident, so, yes, it's going to be pretty special for us all. It's a dream come true."
Williams is related to former Scotland scrum-half Arthur Dorward, and former Gala president Donald Fairgrieve, but he was born and bred in Auckland after his parents emigrated. His blood line actually runs right to Murrayfield Stadium, and a great-grandmother, Jemima Crowe, who was born and raised at 4 Roseburn Street.
Williams has endured a troubled year. A jaw fractured by the significant frame of Frenchman Sebastien Chabal, in June, forced him into hospital and a lengthy diet of soup and mashed potato, his brother Jay coming in to play lock for the Blues. On return, Williams reportedly fell out with Blues coach David Nucifora, was sent home from South Africa before the Super 14 semi-final on "disciplinary grounds" and has now agreed a move to the South Island and the Crusaders.
Williams is now focused solely on his second World Cup and is clearly excited by a first Murrayfield appearance.
"I can't wait for the game", he concluded. "It should be easier for us in some ways because we know Scotland, their players and how they play a bit better than we knew Portugal. But they are playing pretty bloody well - we've seen them against Ireland and South Africa - so mentally we need to be up there and get it right from the start.
"Scotland are looking more physical and added to that typical Scottish will to dominate, and be physical in the contact, I reckon it will make for an all-round great game on Sunday."