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Nanai-Williams relishing Chiefs' challenges

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Sportal.co.nz     17 Feb 2014     Getty Images

But the 51-game dynamo for the Chiefs prefers to say that he is happy to play anywhere the opportunity is available.

That is especially appropriate in 2014 because of the wealth of talent the Chiefs can call on for their back three.

Nanai-Williams said his versatility made the changing of positions hard, but he welcomed that. It suited him.

"There is a lot of competition for places in the starting XV. We don't know from one week to the next who is going to get the call-up. It is a very competitive environment.

"But I look at that as a challenge. Whenever I am named to play, whether it be at fullback or on the wing, I go away and prepare myself to play in that position.

"Taking that approach makes me a better person and better player," he said.

Nanai-Williams said it was hard to change the mindset required between positions but he liked that challenge.

"If you are not uncomfortable in your work, you are not extending yourself," he said.

While he said all members of the defending champions' squad were 'itching' to pit themselves against a team, the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday, he felt was the best in the world with their 12-13 All Blacks, Nanai-Williams has his own reasons to get into action.

He missed the last ITM Cup season for his Counties Manukau side while he recovered from groin surgery for an injury he had been carrying for two seasons. That meant he missed playing for the Ranfurly Shield glory the side achieved when not only winning the famous trophy for Counties Manukau for the first time, but holding onto it for the remainder of the season.

However, he said he continued to work with the squad by helping out with skills work so got to taste the lift in enthusiasm the Shield generated, not only among the players, but among the public as well.

"It was quite hard sitting watching the games but I was immensely proud of what the boys achieved. Of course, it would have been a whole lot better had I been playing," he said.

Nanai-Williams officially returned to training when the Chiefs came together for their post-New Year training, but said he had secretly done some running in preparation after Christmas.

"I've been working very hard, doing a lot of strengthening and conditioning work but I had a lot of catching up to do after the others had the benefit of pre-Christmas training," he said.

The groin injury had stood up well subsequently. It was the first major injury he had suffered in his career. He had the odd hard knock previously but nothing that curtailed him from playing for any length of time.

Now it was a case of going out as the two-time champions but the Chiefs wouldn't be looking to defend their title. They knew everyone started a new season equal so they would be going out with the goal of winning from that standpoint.

"We know a lot are picking us as the favourites but we're not getting carried away. We know what we've got to do," he said.