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Farcical Loophole Clears Sonny Bill Williams To Face Australia

Farcical Loophole Clears Sonny Bill Williams To Face Australia
By Gavin Cooney

The old All Blacks exceptionalism was never going to lie dormant for very long. Sonny Bill Williams became the first New Zealand player to be red carded in a Test match in 50 years when he shunted into Lions winger Anthony Watson's head midway through the first half of the second Test. Jerome Garces was the man who was brave enough to make the call.

Afterward, Williams was suspended for four matches by World Rugby, meaning he would miss the third Lions Test along with the first Bledisloe Cup game of the Rugby Championship against Australia. Williams has now been cleared to play in that critical Test, thanks to the All Blacks exploitation of a pretty farcical loophole. Instead of the Australian game being the fourth game of the ban, the All Blacks have arranged a game which has now been deemed worthy of fulfilling the criteria of a match.

That game is a run-out against provincial sides Taranaki and Manukau, and the All Blacks have got clever regarding how to portray it as a proper game that should fall under the remit of a match worthy of missing because of a transgression in a Test game. New Zealand are facing each side for forty minutes.

An independent panel ruled that this matched the criteria of a match, and have enforced it as the final game of Williams' ban, meaning he can face the Wallabies on August 19th.

World Rugby released a statement, expressing surprise:

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.

A game being played by New Zealand against Counties Manukau and Taranaki on 11 August that had been excluded from the suspension by the original disciplinary committee, has now been deemed to comply with the regulations' definition of a 'match',' read a statement issued on behalf of World Rugby.

And, as such, that match will be included as part of the player's suspension. Accordingly, Williams is suspended from all forms of rugby up to and including 11 August.

So Williams is free to play against Australia...with Jerome Garces the referee.

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[Daily Mail]

See Also: Liam Williams Recalls His Thinking For Sean O'Brien's Sensational Try Vs All Blacks

 

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