Appeals ruling a 'rugby decision' - Foster

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    04 Aug 2017     Getty Images

All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster said on Radio Sport on Friday they were pleased the independent appeals committee appointed by World Rugby had gone back to the crux of the matter which was whether the All Blacks' game of three halves with Counties Manukau and Taranaki was a meaningful game of rugby.

"If people turn up to watch this game does it look like a match? Of course it does. Is it meaningful? Yes it is, it's not a training run and you think about the Counties and Taranaki players, they're going to be going for it. It's a great opportunity for them and it's 80 minutes played under the normal laws of the game," he said.

The appeals committee considered that and had come up with a rugby decision, he said, and that would allow Williams to be considered for the Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia on August 19.

Foster said what they were appealing was simply the interpretation of the All Blacks game of three halves being meaningful.

Their presentation included a statement from coach Steve Hansen about how the game against Counties Manukau and Taranaki was structured and how it was played.

"From a common sense perspective it is a game we play 80 minutes under the normal laws of rugby. We said that we've done this three or four times, so it is not like a one-off. It's not something that has been hastily organised. The reason we play two teams is because it actually makes the game harder for us," he said.

Being able to explain that the game was played under New Zealand's No.1 ranked referee Glen Jackson and with all the applications of the judiciary it was treated as if it was a real game.

"If someone gets sent off in this game then they have to go through the same process Sonny had to go through.

"For all intents and purposes this is a match and we just wanted the chance to express that and, fortunately for us, we felt that common sense has prevailed," he said.

While the game was more classified as a pre-season game rather than being played as a first-class game, those pre-season games were subject to behavioural rulings and that was the same in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

Foster said the aim of the appeal was simply to have the game interpreted in the same way as other games were and which have been used for suspension purposes.

"If the by-product of this is that we get a universal definition of how they want to do it then that's great," he said.

Foster said World Rugby was in a difficult position in attempting to cope with two different systems in the two hemispheres.

In the north the players had either international or club games in place but in the south there were four levels, Test, Super Rugby, Mitre 10 Cup and club rugby and the June-July period was often hard for people to understand when a player was due to play next.

In the judicial process, the New Zealand management had to say what would be the next four games Williams was due to play and because of his injury issues in Super Rugby, his reduced involvement in the Tests and the Blues failure to make the Super Rugby playoffs, he was always going to be played in some Counties Manukau games.

"We were just getting clarity on that," he said.

The appeals ruling probably meant that had been achieved.

Foster said he understood World Rugby's role in making sure that games were not included in suspensions that the player was never going to play in.

They had intended to play Williams in one Counties Manukau A v B game but on inquiry it was found that it didn't meet the criteria and they agreed with the judiciary that it couldn't be included.

"I think you've got to keep common sense at the top of it, I don't think you can over-regulate it," he said.

The New Zealand management felt it was an applicable game. It is a significant game and it was very meaningful for Williams, he said, and that mattered under the laws.