You have to give credit to New Zealand Rugby for their efforts to sneak Sonny Bill Williams into the Bledisloe Cup, but as it turns out, the matches SBW was held out of did not have sufficient grade to satisfy the national body.
SBW was hit with a four-week ban for a dangerous tackle, but New Zealand Rugby submitted warm-up matches that were actually All Blacks inter-squad games, along with NPC pre-season hit-outs.
Williams was red-carded back in early July in the second test against the British and Irish Lions.
The final decision by World Rugby is that Williams’ ban will prevent him from playing the opening Rugby Championship test against Australia.
“Since the hearing on 2 July, the disciplinary committee has been receiving and reviewing additional submissions and evidence from the player’s side relating to his upcoming schedule of matches,” World Rugby said in a statement.
Williams did not play in the third test against the Lions and he sat out the Blues’ loss to the Sunwolves in the final round of the Super Rugby regular season.
NZ Rugby was hoping that World Rugby would count a Counties Manukau pre-season game against a Counties B lineup and a game of three halves the All Blacks are set to play against Counties and Taranaki.
Not so fast, said World Rugby. World Rugby said they were “not satisfied” the inter-squad fixture was a “meaningful match” which would have a “meaningful consequence.”
The creativity displayed by NZ Rugby should count for one match of the ban, one would think, but World Rugby was having none of it.
If Williams is to lodge an appeal over World Rugby’s decision, he needs to do so quickly, within 48 hours of the decision.
Williams would like to play to be certain; we have yet to see a rugger who was not constantly prepared to join a scrum at a moment’s notice, but the All Blacks can certainly handle the Aussies without him for one game.