Wellington, New Zealand, Feb 27 – New Zealand media Monday accused Ali Williams of tarnishing the image of the All Blacks after French police charged the World Cup-winning former international with buying cocaine.
Williams and ex-Wallaby James O’Connor were arrested outside a Paris nightspot over the weekend after allegedly being caught with 2.4 grams (0.08 ounces) of the drug.
Fairfax New Zealand sports columnist Kevin Norquay said such behaviour was unacceptable for a former All Black, let alone one who once led the team’s fabled haka war dance.
“Ali Williams has hauled the proud black name through the white powder dirt,” he wrote.
“He’s not just a silly boy with money having a bit of a lark outside a Paris nightclub.
“He’s Ali Williams, All Black lock, 77 Test caps, World Cup winner in 2011. Wearer of the Silver Fern, dispenser of the haka.”
Norquay said Williams’ status as an All Black was the reason he was in France playing for Racing 92, the defending Top 14 champions who have suspended the 35-year-old indefinitely over the incident.
“Williams’ allegedly illegal act did not hurt only himself, or those close to him — such as his wife and small children. He harmed the All Black legacy,” he added.
Williams is the second ex-All Black at Racing 92 to face trouble with the law after the legendary Dan Carter was caught drink-driving in Paris earlier this month.
Newstalk ZB’s France correspondent Catherine Field said Racing 92 promoted itself as a family club and would have expected better from its high-profile recruits.
“It’s not just a glamour club, it’s a club that’s really based around family… it’s really something that goes against the ethics of this particular club,” she said.
“On top of that, there’s always a lot of interest in what the former All Blacks are doing here in France.”
However, there was also some sympathy for Williams, with the New Zealand Herald’s Chris Rattue saying the lock was a “victim” in the war on drugs.
“I wish Williams and O’Connor well,” he wrote, arguing that prohibition of drugs had created a disaster.
“Theirs was a victim-less crime.”
He added the pair were “guilty of nothing, whatever the outcome”.
Williams made his All Blacks debut in 2002 and played 77 Tests over the next decade, including victory in the 2011 World Cup final against France.
He gained a reputation as a prankster during his playing days, once turning up to a Super Rugby press conference dressed as Spiderman.
There were also off-field issues and the Auckland Blues sent him home in disgrace ahead of a semi-final in South Africa in 2007 for repeated indiscretions.