Nick Williams included four of his Cardiff Blues team-mates as he picked a star-studded ‘Most Supportive XV’.
The talismanic number eight, who has become a beloved character in the Welsh capital since moving to the Arms Park in 2016, drafted the list for compression company Bearhug, where he was recently appointed a Non-Executive Director.
The team compiles some of Williams’ stand-out team-mates from his stints playing with Blues, Munster, Aironi, Ulster and Cardiff Blues.
Gethin Jenkins, Josh Navidi, Ellis Jenkins and Rey Lee-Lo were all included in the side, which also contained the likes of Jerome Kaino, Ruan Pienaar, Isa Nacewa and Joe Rokocoko.
The selection of Jenkins in the number one jersey will come at no surprise, and Williams says the Welsh international’s worldwide reputation speaks volumes about his impact on the sport.
“For the boys in the front row, you don’t really have to explain what they’ve done in their career. It’s about the support they’ve given me,” explained the number eight.
“People will think that I only played with Melon for two or three years, but I’ll tell you what - the impact he had on me in those two or three years I played with him, money couldn’t buy that.
“It goes to show how much of a legend he is.
“He’s well-known down in New Zealand, and there’s a fair few good props running around there, but for him to be spoken about in such high regard is pretty special.
“I’d put Melon in the same field as Richie McCaw. The longevity of their careers was because they could adapt.
“When Melon first came, props would’ve been about scrummaging and line-out lifting, but he became a front rower that could run defensive lines for teams.
“If people want to look at how much the game has changed, you just have to look at how a front rower runs a defensive pattern. People used to think they were just part of the set piece.
“That’s what makes him extra special. He had to adapt with the game, and that’s why he had such a long and illustrious career.”
In the back row alongside All Blacks great Jerome Kaino, Williams chose Ellis Jenkins, highlighting his leadership credentials and professionalism, and the ‘freak of nature’ Josh Navidi.
Lining up in midfield, alongside former Blues and Munster centre Rua Tipoki, is Cardiff Blues’ Rey Lee-Lo.
Williams explains his decision for including the Samoan international: “Mr Consistent, Mr Durable, and our families are extremely close.
“He knows my mother and my brother very well, and played with Tim in New Zealand.
“There are more Samoans, Tongans and Fijians in Auckland than there are in Samoa, Tonga and Fiji themselves. The diversity is unbelievable, and it’s a huge community of Polynesians.
“Joe Rokocoko, John Afoa, Jerome Kaino and Rey Lee-Lo - we’re all from South Auckland - which is like an equivalent of the Valleys here in Wales. So in some sense it was a small community.
“But you have to remember that rugby in New Zealand is like football in England. Everyone has those same goals.
“For us to have lost touch, but got back together in our professional years, makes it a really cool story to tell.”
Nick Williams’ Most Supportive XV: Isaia Toeava; Anthony Tuitavake, Rey Lee-Lo, Rua Tipoki, Joe Rokocoko; Isa Nacewa, Ruan Pienaar; Gethin Jenkins, Keven Mealamu/Rory Best, John Afoa, Greg Rawlinson, Johann Muller, Jerone Kaino, Ellis Jenkins, Josh Navidi