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Ali has a mountain to climb

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Sportal.co.nz     27 Sep 2011     Getty Images

Williams, who has fought back from two Achilles injuries, started in New Zealand's opening World Cup match against Tonga but has found himself on the bench behind Sam Whitelock for the most recent Pool A wins against Japan and France.

In his own unique style, the 30-year-old lock likened the challenge he faces to climbing a mountain.

"There's no point coming halfway up a mountain then turning back," he said.

"I think I've got to provide a bit more than what I'm doing at the moment to get there."

"But I've got to fit into the game plan and the team structures, which I think I'm doing. It's like anything - there's a few people who make those decisions and you've got to please them and make sure you're showing them what they want to see."

Two years ago, the names of Williams and Brad Thorn would probably have been one of the first few coach Graham Henry wrote on his team sheet.

But during his injury-enforced absence and while working his way back to form, Williams has seen Whitelock leap ahead of him in the pecking order. Blues team-mate Anthony Boric has forced own his way into contention after overcoming a foot injury of his own.

"Life evolves. That's the harsh reality. I went away and people have come in my place," Williams said.

"At the start of the year I was struggling to get a spot with the Blues. There's a guy called Anthony Boric and he's playing pretty bloody well too."

"The reality is that all four of us could be in that combination. For me, I love this jersey. I love this country and I don't deny that."

"Sitting on the bench and watching for 60 minutes is not what I like to do. But it's what I have been doing so when I come on I've got to do my role. I'm not hiding the fact I want to start."

In his 20-odd minutes against France, Williams showed some of his confidence of old and had a direct hand in the All Blacks' final try when he charged onto Daniel Carter's re-start.

He offloaded to Colin Slade, who finally sent Sonny Bill Williams over in the corner.

"I guess two years out of the game, a lot of people would probably have given up," Boric said.

"For him to keep believing in himself and to come back and get the match fitness and play how he played on Saturday, it's a pretty amazing performance and back to Ali of old."

Williams' reflections on the team's performance on Saturday were not quite as glowing.

"The reality is we needed to step up from the last two games and I think we did that," he said.

"I definitely think the training week was great. The intensity was there and we delivered on the field."

"But I still think we've got a lot to work on. There were a lot of errors that we were not happy with. But there's definitely some good signs there."

"The old cliche, it's one game at a time. That was last week and now we've got Canada (on Sunday) and for a lot of us it's a big opportunity."

Williams made it clear the quarter-finals were certainly not on the team's radar just yet.

"Are we getting ahead of ourselves? I think we're getting ahead of ourselves, eh," he replied when asked if he had seen anything in the Argentina-Scotland game on Sunday that would concern the All Blacks, who are likely to face one of those teams in the last eight.

"Last time we got ahead of ourselves we shot ourselves in the foot. Then we did it again a few years before that. We shot the other foot. We're just trying to leave our feet on."

"The reality is Canada are a pretty good side and they showed against Tonga when they won that one and they showed against the French that they can push teams."

"For us, it's not so much looking forward, it's looking right in the here and now."