Tuesday 24 April 2018

All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams available for Rugby Championship opener after winning red card appeal

Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand looks on after 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)
Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand looks on after 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)

New Zealand star Sonny Bill Williams will be available for the All Blacks' Rugby Championship opener against Australia on August 19.

Williams was sent off by French referee Jerome Garces during New Zealand's second Test defeat against the British and Irish Lions in Wellington last month.

He received a four-week ban following the red card for a dangerous charge into the head of Lions wing Anthony Watson.

Centre Williams, though, appealed against the matches that counted towards his suspension.

And an appeal panel, independent of World Rugby, ruled this week that a game on August 11 when New Zealand face Counties Manukau and Taranaki, playing 40 minutes against each team, complies with regulations constituting a match.

"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."

New Zealand face the Wallabies in Sydney, with Garces the match referee.

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