World Rugby has confirmed in a statement that All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams will miss the Bledisloe Cup opener against the Wallabies.
It was widely reported that the powerhouse centre would serve his suspension before the opening Rugby Championship test against Australia in Sydney on August 19 but on Thursday (Friday NZ time) World Rugby confirmed that was not the case.
“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,” the global governing body 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 had pleaded at the hearing that Williams would also be part of Counties Manukau’s pre-season game against north Harbour, an inter-squad match against a Counties B lineup and a “game of three halves” the All Blacks are set to play against Counties and Taranaki.
However, in their decision, World Rugby deemed (correctly) that both the inter-squad match and All Blacks hit-out against Counties and Taranaki did not meet the criteria to count for Williams’ suspension.