WELLINGTON • New Zealand media yesterday accused Ali Williams of tarnishing the image of the All Blacks after French police charged the World Cup-winning former rugby international with buying cocaine.
Williams and ex-Wallaby James O'Connor were arrested outside a Paris nightspot on Saturday morning after allegedly being caught with 2.4g 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," Norquay wrote.
"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."
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 is the second ex-All Black at Racing 92 to face trouble with the law, after Dan Carter was caught drink-driving in Paris earlier this month.
Newstalk ZB's France correspondent Catherine Field said Racing 92 promoted themselves as a family club and would have expected better from their 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.
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. Theirs was a victim-less crime," he wrote, arguing that prohibition of drugs had created a disaster. He added the pair were "guilty of nothing, whatever the outcome".
The incident appears to have turned the international hopes of O'Connor to dust. He had only two weeks ago declared himself "mature" and ready to reclaim his Wallabies jersey.
O'Connor, who played the last of his 44 Tests in 2013, is likely to make a public apology, including a pledge to make amends on and off the field. But it will hold little currency in his native Australia.
The local rugby community has heard it all before from O'Connor, who was marked for greatness upon his 2008 Wallabies debut against Italy as a teenager, but released from his contract in disgrace five years later after a drunken incident at Perth airport.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS