3 Jul 2017

SBW 'very disappointed' to let team down

7:28 am on 3 July 2017

All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams has been suspended for four weeks and will miss the third and deciding Test against the British and Irish Lions at Eden Park in Auckland next Saturday.

All Black Sonny Bill Williams is red carded

All Black Sonny Bill Williams is given his red card during the second test against the Lions in Wellington. Photo: Photosport

Williams became the first New Zealand player in 50 years to receive a red card, sent off by referee Jerome Garces in his side's 24-21 second-test loss to the Lions.

The 31-year-old was sent off in the 25th minute after a bruising shoulder charge that struck Lions winger Anthony Watson flush in the face.

The tackle proved a pivotal moment in the match with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen having to rejig his starting XV to accommodate for the send-off.

Williams pleaded guilty to unnecessary contact to the head.

The three-man judicial panel deemed the offence warranted a six-week suspension but that was reduced when mitigating factors including his early admission, his disciplinary record and remorse were factored in.

After the hearing in Wellington, which lasted nearly three hours, Williams said he was upset to have let his team-mates down.

"They've come to the conclusion that it was reckless, it wasn't intentional," he said.

Williams said he had been in contact with Watson and apologised.

"[I'm] very disappointed that I was sent from the field ... and let my brothers down," he said.

Hansen had earlier called Malakai Fekitoa into the squad in anticipation of Williams receiving a ban and explained how upset the centre had been to receive the red card.

"He's disappointed, not for himself, he accepts that he's made a mistake," Hansen said.

"He's disappointed because he's let the team down.

"One of the biggest mantras in our team is that the team comes first and he knows he let the team down.

"But we can't go back and change it either. People make mistakes. It's a fluid game, it's a fast game and unfortunately he's made a mistake so we have to move on from it."

The last All Black to be sent off was Sir Colin Meads, against Scotland in 1967.

SBW will also miss the Blues' final game of the Super Rugby season against the Sunwolves in Tokyo on 15 July.

- Reuters / RNZ