A cult hero of Welsh rugby has spoken about life on the tough streets of South Auckland and the tragic death of his brother two years after coming out of prison.

Nick Williams' grandmother was so concerned the popular Blues' back-rower would head down a similar path of crime, she moved him closer to family living in the more affluent North Shore area of Auckland.

It was to be the best move in Williams' illustrious rugby career that's taken in spells with Munster, Ulster, Aironi and the last four seasons at the Arms Park with the Blues.

He's also played four times for the Junior All Blacks and played back in his native New Zealand for North Harbour, who helped nurture the career of rugby luminaries like Wayne Shelford, Frano Botica, Frank Bunce, Tony Woodcock and Walter Little.

North Harbour also saw the late great Jonah Lomu turn out for them on his return to New Zealand from the Cardiff Blues in 2006.

But Williams' time carving out cult figure status at the Blues in the last four years might never have happened had it not been for his 'Nana' Laurosa.

In a revealing interview with Rugby Pass, the 36-year-old said: “Growing up in South Auckland is your equivalent of growing up in the Valleys, I guess.

"There wasn’t too much extra floating around, but we were a tight unit. I had seven siblings; five sisters and two brothers, all raised by a single lady, my mum Aolele.

“Growing up I was very blessed to have my grandmother helping my mum out. She was the rock of the family and Nana (Laurosa) took me under her wing.

“The main reason I left South Auckland was because my older brother had got in trouble with the authorities and was sentenced to time in prison.

"He served his time but within two years of coming out, he was killed in a car crash. My nana could see me going down that path so she moved us to the North Shore where we had some other family.

"They were desperate for me not to end up like my brother.”

He was only 13 or 14 but Williams was determined to make something of himself.

“Anthony’s death was a game-changer. I know it’s a tough story but instead of dwelling on it and feeling sorry for myself, I used it as ammunition to better myself," he added.

“My younger brother Lee followed me to the North Shore and while I wouldn’t say anything justified his death, good did come out of it. I hope Anthony is looking down on us now thinking at least I didn’t die in vain.

"It was why I decided to give rugby a crack and I’m forever thankful I made that move. If I hadn’t I wouldn’t be speaking to you right now.”

With Williams' ability to wreak havoc in rugby defences he went from North Harbour to the Auckland-based Blues, spending four seasons with the Super Rugby franchise before joining Munster in 2008.

After a two-year stint in Italy with Aironi, he joined Ulster in 2012 and four years later he was being linked with a move to Wales and the Blues.

With those rumours gaining traction, during an Ulster trip to the Arms Park, Williams was lambasted for a reckless hit on home outside-half Rhys Patchell.

It earned him an eight-week suspension while the Welsh international suffered memory loss from concussion .

“Yeah, it was an interesting welcome to Welsh rugby," said Williams.

"I couldn’t believe it but ironically I’ve actually got quite close to Rhys since. He’s a great lad. We chatted only a few weeks ago.”