Ali Williams close to playing return

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James Mortimer     23 Sep 2012     Getty Images

Williams will eventually play, with Auckland coach Wayne Pivac targeting a return against North Harbour in early October.

The veteran lock injured his knee playing against Ireland in Christchurch, and his absence has led to a young test second row.

Brodie Retallick and Luke Romano have become frontline All Blacks locks, while Sam Whitelock at the tender age of 23 is the senior second row forward.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has indicated that a fit Williams is highly likely to travel with the World Champions to Europe, but first he needs to prove himself in the blue and white jersey.

"He (Williams) had his first training with us last week and came through that really well," Pivac said to Fairfax Media.

"He is doing virtually everything but he's not doing major contact at this stage. He is running around and doing all of the skill work and his lineout work and he looks good.

"We are targeting the second to last round, which would be our game against North Harbour.

Pivac said that Auckland team doctors were in contact with their All Blacks counterparts to monitor Williams fitness.

"Whether he starts or comes off the bench will be determined by the medical staff and how he progresses over the next couple of weeks," he said.

"Obviously there is communication between the two (Auckland and All Blacks), we have been given a full report of where he's at and our medical staff are across that.

"We will certainly only be doing things as required and at this stage he's ticking the boxes."