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Thread: Sonny Bill Williams free to play Wallabies in Bledisloe Cup opener after appeal

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    Legend Contributor blueandblack's Avatar
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    Sonny Bill Williams free to play Wallabies in Bledisloe Cup opener after appeal

    Sonny Bill Williams free to play Wallabies in Bledisloe Cup opener after appeal controversially upheld


    World Rugby has expressed surprise at an independent committee's finding that a training fixture for the All Blacks against both Counties Manukau and Taranaki will count towards the ban it imposed on Sonny Bill Williams for a dangerous tackle.

    The All Blacks star is free to play against the Wallabies in Bledisloe Cup game one after successfully appealing a minor detail in a four-week suspension that would have kept him out of the match.

    Sonny Bill Williams was red carded midway through the first half of the All Blacks clash with the Lions in Wellington. Williams was originally suspended for four weeks after he was shown a red card for a hit on British and Irish Lions winger Anthony Watson in the second Test in Wellington.

    New Zealand Rugby then appealed the decision in the hope Williams would be free to line up for the All Blacks' first Test against Australia in Sydney on August 19.

    A disciplinary hearing has come to the conclusion that a game set to be played by New Zealand against Counties and Taranaki on August 11, which was originally left out of the suspension, complied with World Rugby's definition of a "match".

    Therefore, Williams will be suspended from all forms of rugby until August 11 but now has the green light to travel with the All Blacks to Sydney and line up against the Wallabies at ANZ Stadium.

    The decision has caused controversy, given Williams and coach Steve Hansen were able to successfully argue that the match should form part of the suspension because New Zealand are going to play two different teams in two 40-minute halves.

    "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')," the statement said.

    "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."

    The crux of the argument was that the All Blacks would face a fresh batch of players in the second half of the game, making the fixture even more demanding for them, therefore providing Williams with a substantial hit-out.

    "If the same team of provincial level players were playing against the All Blacks in both halves of the match, despite the probable diminution in competitiveness, there would be no debate about whether there had been a match," wrote Mr Graeme Mew, chair of the Independent Appeal Committee.

    "In the unusual and perhaps unique format of this particular fixture, the intention, as Mr Hansen explained, is to provide the All Blacks with a more challenging competition by introducing a fresh but equivalent [in terms of playing level and competitiveness] team in the second period.

    "From the standpoint of the player, a match offering the opportunity for him to pitch his skills against those of competitive opponents in a format that would present a greater challenge than a match comprising of two 40-minute periods facing the same provincial team."

    The judicial committee conceded it had applied the wrong principles in its original judgement, meaning Williams is now free to play for the All Blacks in one of the biggest Tests of the year for the Wallabies.

    Williams has already served two matches of his suspension. He missed the drawn third Test against the Lions as well as the Blues' final Super Rugby clash against the Sunwolves.

    The former NRL star is set to be picked at inside-centre in a mouth-watering match-up with likely Wallabies No.12 Kurtley Beale.


    Interesting precedent now set

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    Legend Contributor Alison's Avatar
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    Independent? Really?

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    Immortal GIGS20's Avatar
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    So what they're saying is that a game against Counties and Taranaki counts as a match, but playing in the Shute Shield doesn't?

    So much for Papworth's assertion that we should scrap the NRC because the Shite Shield is ample preparation for the Wallabies!

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    C'mon the

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    Rookie Petalz's Avatar
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    What a joke. It's not as if they need SBW to thrash the Wallabies
    NZRU and ABs are above the rules yet again.

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