WELLINGTON - Ali Williams has replaced fellow-All Blacks veteran Keven Mealamu as captain of the Blues for their 2013 Super Rugby campaign.
New Blues coach Sir John Kirwan announced the change to his players on their first day of pre-season training on Monday.
Williams, 31, fills the role of hooker Mealamu, 33, who has been granted an extended off-season and will miss the first three matches of the season. Mealamu oversaw a disappointing 2012 campaign under former coach Pat Lam in which the Blues finished 12th after winning four of 16 matches.
Kirwan hoped Williams had shaken off the ongoing injury issues of recent years and believed the 77-Test veteran was ready to lead a young squad.
"I think it's an incredibly important time for Ali Williams," Kirwan said. "He's had some interesting experiences in the past but he really cares about this place and I believe he's the right man to lead this team. It's a great challenge for him and one I'm sure he'll relish."
Williams, who returned from England on Sunday after playing two Tests on the All Blacks' season-ending tour, described his Blues promotion as an honour.
"It's an extremely tough job and I respect that. There have been many great leaders of this team before me and my job along with the team is to strengthen the strong traditions that the Blues have."
Williams has 86 caps for the Blues since 2002, having played one season for the Crusaders in 2008 following a bust-up with then-Blues coach David Nucifora.