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SBW ends rugby fairy tale

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Sportal.co.nz     23 Aug 2012     Getty Images

He contributed to Canterbury's ITM Cup win in 2010, the same year as he experienced Canterbury regaining the Ranfurly Shield from Southland. Last year he was part of the World Cup-winning side and this year he helped claim the Super Rugby title with the Chiefs.

"It's funny it's all just kind of worked out that way. I always try and put myself in situations where it brings out the best in me, hence going to the Chiefs. I don't know, I guess it was just a fairy tale at the end coming from nowhere and winning that [the Super title]," he said.

"I've got one hand on that Bledisloe and I want to get both hands before I leave so I've been telling the boys, 'send me off with a win brothers'," he said in Auckland on Thursday.

As he prepares to bow out of his rugby stint in New Zealand, Williams admitted he had a far greater understanding of the game and its culture in New Zealand.

"When I first came into the All Blacks squad I definitely felt like I didn't belong here, I didn't know anyone. I had come straight from ITM Cup and I felt like I was out of my depth. I was still improving as a rugby player.

"After being involved so long, and being involved in 20 Tests you really appreciate what you have. Now that I understand rugby I have got the utmost respect for it and you kind of look back on it definitely happy knowing you've been able to accomplish what you have," he said.

Williams said his stint in Canterbury had been crucial to learning about rugby – not just how to play rugby but what it meant to be a rugby player. He learnt what the Ranfurly Shield was all about, and he said as time has progressed he had appreciated that success all the more.

Williams offered a grain of hope that it would not be his last appearance for the All Blacks. He said it was an emotional time to be playing his last game then added, 'hopefully it is not forever'.

He definitely would like to play for the All Blacks again but admitted he didn't know what the future held.

It was tough, he said, because people were asking him why he was leaving.

"You know when I came here three years ago I didn't even know if I could play rugby. I didn't know how the future was going to unfold but it was good to have that security knowing that I had a job in three years time in rugby league.

"I wish I could say now I would just stay but three years ago, if I had the chance I would probably have been back in league straight away but I came back here and things worked out the way they did. If things don't work out over there [Australia] as well as I hope then maybe I might be back here but who knows what is going to happen?" he said.

Ahead of Saturday's Test he said he had to put the emotion aside, just as he had when playing the Super Rugby final for the Chiefs, and if he managed to do that and the side was successful it would make his memories all the better.

One of the first lessons he was given was from former flanker Jerome Kaino who said: "'That jersey is never yours, you're just the caretaker of it, but you want to leave it better off then when you got it', so that is definitely what I want to do."

Williams said he left the field in Sydney last week feeling he hadn't contributed too much to the game, and that was a similar feeling among other players.

"A few of the boys came off feeling pretty fresh. That was probably the frustrating thing because we all wanted to get involved and help out but sometimes you have just got to stick to the systems.

"They targeted me and Ma'a [Nonu] a lot but that opened up space for others. The first couple of tries we ran a couple of decoy runs and opened up the space for the boys out wide who got over the line," he said.

A lot of work had been done this week to try and open up space at Eden Park and if it can be found then Williams may have the chance to leave an even greater mark on his All Blacks footprint.