LONDON, United Kingdom, Aug 3 – Sonny Bill Williams will be able to line up for New Zealand in their Rugby Championship opener against Australia on August 19 after having an appeal upheld on Thursday.
Williams received a four-week ban after being sent off for a dangerous charge into the head of British and Irish Lions wing Anthony Watson in Wellington last month.
An independent appeal panel ruled that New Zealand’s game against Counties Manukau and Taranaki on August 11, when they will play 40 minutes against each team, constitutes an official match and counts towards his ban.
“A game being played by New Zealand against Counties Manukau and Taranaki on 11 August that had been excluded from the suspension by the original disciplinary committee has now been deemed to comply with the regulations’ definition of a ‘match’,” read a statement issued on behalf of World Rugby.
“And, as such, that match will be included as part of the player’s suspension. Accordingly, Williams is suspended from all forms of rugby up to and including 11 August.”
World Rugby expressed disappointment with the appeals panel’s decision and said there was need for greater clarity over the definition of a match.
“While World Rugby respects the decision of the independent appeal committee … it is surprised by the committee’s interpretation of the definition of ‘match’ (which is defined in Regulation 1 as ‘a game in which two teams compete against each other’),” the global governing body said in a statement.
“With the appeal process having been exhausted, World Rugby will refer the interpretation of the regulation to the Regulations Committee when it meets in September to examine the findings in the context of the game’s regulations to ensure universal clarity and compliance with the meaning of the regulation moving forward.”
New Zealand’s clash with Australia in Sydney will be refereed by Frenchman Jerome Garces, who sent Williams off against the Lions.