Aussie committee rules Sonny Bill out of Bledisloe opener
A WORLD Rugby committee comprising three Australians has ruled Sonny Bill Williams out of New Zealand's Rugby Championship opener against the Wallabies on August 19.
The All Blacks centre was sent off for a dangerous shoulder charge on British and Irish Lions winger Anthony Watson in the Second Test in Wellington earlier this month and suspended for four matches.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen had hoped Williams could serve the ban by missing the third Lions Test, the final match of the Auckland Blues' Super Rugby season and two other games.
New Zealand Rugby proposed counting a pre-season match for his National Provincial Championship side Counties Manukau, and an internal Counties trial or an All Blacks trial as the other two games.
A three-man judicial committee comprising Sydney lawyer Adam Casselden and former Wallabies David Croft and John Langford ruled the trial matches were insufficiently meaningful.
"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," World Rugby said in a statement.
The All Blacks face the Wallabies in their Rugby Championship opener in Sydney on Aug. 19, with the return match against Australia in Dunedin the following week.
Williams, the first All Black to be sent off in a Test for half a century, is likely to be replaced by Ryan Crotty.