Ali Williams set to play in USA

Date published: May 9 2015

Toulon lock Ali Wiliams will put his retirement on hold to captain the NRFL Rough Riders against Leicester in Philadelphia on August 8.

Williams, who was Man of the Match in the Champions Cup win for Toulon last weekend, has been invited to join the side by former New Zealand prop Craig Dowd.

The fixture will mark the beginning of the NRFL, with the 34-year-old Williams bringing his 74 caps worth of experience to a side made up of younger players having their first crack at elite rugby, as the sport looks to go professional in the USA.

"Craig asked if I'd be willing to play and I put my hand up and said: 'Yeah, it'd be great to come and play a competitive game in the States and also to check out the lay of the land, so to speak," Williams told the Guardian.

“There’s no doubting America’s got the talent pool, there’s no doubt America’s got the people who support sport.

"The gap we can maybe fill is the education around rugby, how you play it on the field. It’s about creating a job, an entity in which these guys can make money.

“First and foremost you’ve got to understand what spectators want to see, and for me you have to look at America and how sports fans there have adapted to UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship]. They love that. Then there’s the NFL – there’s no doubting that.

“I believe that rugby is that ultimate mix. It’s got the physicality, it’s got the camaraderie, the team ethic, it’s got the blood and guts, the combat type of stuff with no protection.

“And it’s constantly evolving, it’s a professional thing, it’s getting bigger and better, stronger and faster. I’ve noticed that Americans like to see the best of the best, and that is what rugby is. That’s where rugby’s going. You only need to look at the All Blacks’ record, the best in world sport. It’s all ahead of rugby, really, in America.”