All Blacks have no complaints as Sonny Bill sweats on ban
Sonny Bill Williams will discover today whether he is to face a ban that would rule him out of the final Test against the British and Irish Lions after becoming the first All Blacks player to be sent off for half-a-century.
Williams will appear before a judicial panel consisting of three Australians, Adam Casselden David Croft and John Langford, and the New Zealand centre is almost certain to receive a lengthy ban for smashing his shoulder into the head of Lions wing Anthony Watson in the 25th minute of the 24-21 defeat at the Westpac Stadium.
Colin Meads was the last All Black to be sent off in 1967 at a time when red cards did not even exist for kicking Scotland's David Chisholm at Murrayfield.
Steve Hansen, the All Blacks coach, accepted the decision by French referee Jerome Garces, which had a major impact on the match, leaving his side to play for 55 minutes with 14 men in Wellington.
"The red card was a red card, if the ref says it's a red card, you don't have any say in it," said Hansen.
"It was one of those ones that could have been a yellow or a red, but he chose it to be a red so you just have to live with it.
"There's no point whining about it, Sonny didn't use his arms so he put himself at risk, and unfortunately he collected young Anthony's head and put him at risk," said Hansen. "You don't want that and the referee deemed it a red card, so off you go boy.
"I'm not Sonny Bill so I don't know what his intent was. Things happen in the heat of the moment and players end up on the wrong side of the law. Are they intentional? I don't think anyone does that."
Gatland admitted that the dismissal of Williams had been a major blow to the All Blacks' hopes of clinching the series.
"It's just one of those things," said Gatland. "He led with his shoulder and the referee felt he had no choice. He has made the decision. It was a significant loss for All Blacks in terms of that he's a key person and we are aware of that.
"There's no doubt that without Sonny Bill there, it made it easier for them (Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell) to cause problems and we went out of the back a little bit and broke behind them and created some difficulties."
Williams' departure forced the All Blacks to restructure their line-up, with flanker Jerome Kaino replaced to allow midfielder Ngani Laumape to come on for his Test debut, with centre Anton Lienert-Brown packing down on the blindside flank at scrum time.
Kaino said he did not have an issue with the red card to Williams, who left the pitch hidden under an black overcoat, but admitted it was frustrating not to have had a longer involvement in the game himself.
"No, you trust the man in the middle and what he sees," Kaino said. "It wasn't just him, it was upstairs as well. They had a good look at it and made the decision.
"You always want a long involvement in the game and you always want to be playing, but you've just got to trust what the coaches see and what they decided.
"I thought the guys did well with 14 men but it's never exciting sitting there on the bench not having an influence on what's happening.
"It was a great effort from the boys to hang in there and also play some good footy with 14 men. The Lions played well as well, so we have to take our hats off to them. They capitalised on their opportunities and it paid in the result."
Kaino admitted the Lions had stepped up the intensity of their performance from the first Test in Auckland.
"I thought they brought a lot of edge and physicality in their defence," Kaino added. "Their kicking game was good, but I take my hat off to our boys. We had our chances and we could have taken that game, but also the Lions played well and you saw the two tries that they scored - it was through some great attacking play.
"We didn't start that well, I thought the Lions really brought that physicality in the first half and also the composure in the last five minutes, we could have kept our heads a bit more. But I have to give credit where credit's due and the Lions played well.
"I think they learned from their frailties last week and I thought they definitely brought some edge to their physicality tonight. It's game on and it's exciting heading into next week.
"There's always been edge, it's always been there. I think that amplified things tonight and heading into next week it's going to be exciting."