World Rugby have issued a statement in response to Sonny Bill Williams’ appeal decision on Thursday.
The All Black was sent off in the second test against the Lions last month in Wellington – a match that New Zealand ended up losing – and it was assumed upon receiving the red card (and a subsequent four-game suspension) that he would miss his side’s Rugby Championship opener against Australia later this month.
However, an independent committee found that the All Blacks’ encounter against Counties Manukau and Taranaki next week counts towards the suspension – leaving him free to face the Wallabies.
World Rugby expressed their surprise at the decision – but insisted that they respected the committee’s verdict.
“While World Rugby respects the decision of the independent appeal committee to uphold the appeal by New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Williams against the matches that counted towards his four-week suspension, it is surprised by the committee’s interpretation of the definition of “match” (which is defined in Regulation 1 as “a game in which two teams compete against each other”).
“With the appeal process having been exhausted, World Rugby will refer the interpretation of the regulation to the Regulations Committee when it meets in September to examine the findings in the context of the game’s regulations to ensure universal clarity and compliance with the meaning of the regulation moving forward”
Williams can now look ahead to the Bledisloe Cup opener with that monkey firmly off his back.