Sonny Bill Williams will miss New Zealand’s Rugby Championship opener against Australia next month after World Rugby clarified his four-game ban for a red card in the British and Irish Lions series.
The All Blacks centre was sent off for a dangerous shoulder charge on Lions winger Anthony Watson in the second test in Wellington earlier this month and suspended for four matches.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen had hoped Williams could serve the ban by missing the third Lions test, the final match of the Auckland Blues’ Super Rugby season and two other games.
New Zealand Rugby proposed counting a pre-season match for his National Provincial Championship (NPC) side Counties Manukau, and an internal Counties trial or a “three-way” warm-up match played by the All Blacks against two NPC sides as the other two games.
A three-man judicial committee, Sydney lawyer Adam Casselden and former Wallabies David Croft and John Langford, however said the latter matches were insufficiently meaningful.
“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.
“Following due consideration, the disciplinary committee has ruled that Williams’ suspension will extend up to and including 19 August. As such, he is free to play again from 20 August.”
The All Blacks face the Wallabies in their Rugby Championship opener in Sydney on Aug. 19, with the return match against Australia in Dunedin the following week.
Williams, the first All Black to be sent off in a test for half a century, is likely to be replaced in the New Zealand midfield by Ryan Crotty.