Wednesday 16 August 2017

'You just see an opportunity and you want to light someone up' - Jamie Heaslip on Sonny Bill Williams red card

Anthony Watson of the Lions collides with Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand during the International Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the British & Irish Lions at Westpac Stadium on July 1, 2017 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Anthony Watson of the Lions collides with Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand during the International Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the British & Irish Lions at Westpac Stadium on July 1, 2017 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Jack O'Toole

Former British & Irish Lions number eight Jamie Heaslip has defended suspended New Zealand centre Sonny Bill Williams for his shoulder charge on Lions winger Anthony Watson in Saturday's second Test in Wellington.

Williams became the first All Black to be sent off in 50 years after a dangerous shoulder charge on Watson after 25 minutes, in which he subsequently received a four-week suspension for the challenge after he appeared before a three-man judicial panel in Wellington on Sunday.

A host of former players have defended Williams' challenge, including Luke Fitzgerald and Hayden Triggs on Monday's The Left Wing, with Ireland number eight Jamie Heaslip joining his former Leinster teammates in their defence of Williams' challenge, with Heaslip questioning the intent of Wiliams' hit.

"No one goes out there to make mistakes," Heaslip told Newstalk's Off The Ball on Saturday.

"Let's just get that straight. We're human, everyone's human. We all make mistakes, we all mess up. Sometimes it can be where that emotional side really kicks in and you just see an opportunity and you want to light someone up.

"Sometimes you slip, you make a mistake, or you just make a bad judgement call. Take Sonny Bill, I doubt he meant to go in and smash him in the head but that's what happened.

"I think Conor [Murray] got done for a high tackle for example - it's not like he meant to take him by the head - but these things kind of happen.

"But, there is a lot of mistakes you can cut out and some of the penalties that were given away.

"The lads will know themselves, there were mistakes that could have been very easily cut out and a lot of that stems from how you practice, how you train, and not letting that emotional side (take control) - some players, that's how they drive, they drive on emotion, they play on emotion.

"They like to get in a scuffle and I think the game is quickly moving past that. You need that passionate side but you have got to be clam and focused at the same time."

New Zealand Head Coach Steve Hansen has called up Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa to replace Williams as the All Blacks prepare for Saturday's third Test decider in Auckland.

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