World Rugby says no to Sonny Bill
NEWS: The World Rugby judiciary on Friday dashed New Zealand's hopes of fielding suspended star Sonny Bill Williams in the All Blacks' opening Rugby Championship match against Australia next month.
Williams was handed a four-match ban after being red-carded in the second Test loss to the British and Irish Lions, becoming the first All Black to be sent off in 50 years.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said earlier this month that he was confident the centre would be available to face Australia in Sydney on August 19.
But the World Rugby judiciary disagreed, rejecting New Zealand's bid to include a Counties Manukau trial match as part of Williams' ban.
It said when rugby authorities imposed a ban the matches involved must have "a meaningful consequence for the player".
It accepted Williams had missed three meaningful fixtures and said the next one he was due to play in was the Test between New Zealand and Australia.
"Accordingly, the player is suspended from all forms of rugby up to and including August 19, 2017," it said in a judgement released Friday.
"The player is free to resume playing on August 20."
Former league star Williams was shown a straight red for a shoulder charge into the head of Lions wing Anthony Watson.
He missed the drawn third Lions Test, which resulted in the series ending tied at 1-1, and the Blues' shock Super Rugby loss to Japan's Sunwolves.
The other match included as part of the ban is a pre-season provincial fixture between Counties Manukau and North Harbour scheduled for this weekend.