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Comment: SBW, All Blacks take advantage of broken system

Newshub logoNewshub 4/08/2017 Ross Karl

© Provided by MediaWorks NZ Limited New Zealand rugby's found a loophole and it's got Sonny Bill Williams off.

They'll call it victory. I call it successfully showing that rugby's systems for punishment are a joke.

The All Blacks have managed to appeal on the basis that next week's "Game of three Halves" against Taranaki and Counties in Pukekohe is "meaningful." The judicial committee bought it.

Yes, players can be suspended from the game. Yes, it's an important part of of the All Blacks preparations for the first Bledisloe Cup game a week later. No, it's not a meaningful game.

The only truly meaningful games in professional rugby in New Zealand are first class competition games or internationals. If competition points aren't on the line, or it's not an international, it should not count. If it's not Mitre 10 Cup, Super Rugby, All Blacks, Junior All Blacks or Maori All Blacks, forget about it.

Players don't feel punished by missing out on club or warm-up games. They're barely a blip on a pro players' radar. The idea of a ban is to prevent foul play, not to encourage lawyers to creatively cheat the system.

© Provided by MediaWorks NZ Limited The problem is, with a multi-tier professional competition structure you run into complications and loopholes. Even restricting bans to first class games would have it's problems.

For example. If you were to suspend a Canterbury All Black for three games after the Argentina test on September 9,  they might only miss one week of action. They'd skip a Wednesday Mitre 10 Cup game against Counties, the All Blacks versus South Africa on Saturday and Canterbury against Wellington on Sunday. They'd be free to play the next test.

Once again, teams would be taking advantage of the rules.

So, I can only see one fair way to structure the bans. You suspend players on a weekly basis but only count weeks that include first class competition and international matches. So, if you're banned for a week and it includes three games, tough luck, it's still a one week ban. Off-seasons, club and warm-up games wouldn't be counted. If you're banned for eight weeks, sorry, see you after eight weeks of missing proper competition.

World rugby is referring the Williams case to it's Regulations Committee meeting in September to work on finding clarity and compliance. Let's hope they find a way of cleaning this mess up.

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