Sonny Bill Williams will have served his red-card ban by next month and be eligible for New Zealand’s Rugby Championship opener against Australia, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said Thursday.

Williams was handed a four-match ban after becoming the first All Black in 50 years to be sent off during New Zealand’s second Test loss to the British and Irish Lions earlier this month.

The former league star 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 Auckland Blues’ shock Super Rugby loss to Japan’s Sunwolves last weekend.

Williams is also registered with provincial side Counties Manukau and two of their pre-season matches will also count as part of the suspension.

Hansen said it meant the two-time World Cup winning centre would be available when New Zealand face Australia in Sydney on August 19.

“Yep, he’ll be considered,” the coach told Radio Sport.

Hansen refused to confirm reports out of France that another centre, Malakai Fekitoa, has signed with Top 14 side Toulon.

“He’s making a decision based on what’s right for him,” he said.

“Like all of the guys that go overseas, we don’t want him to go but if he goes we’ll support him.”

Discussing the Lions series, Hansen reiterated his call for rugby’s laws to be simplified, saying referees “had way too much influence on the outcome”.

“The thing that disappointed me is that they weren’t consistent,” he said. “That comes down to the rule book, (there’s) too many interpretations.

“We just want them to ref what’s in the rule book and if the rule book’s too complicated we need to fix that.”

Hansen said his back-to-back world champions did not see the drawn series as a success, contrasting their attitude with the praise lavished on the Lions over the result.

“I guess that’s the difference between the two mindsets isn’t it, and long may it last because I think that gives us an advantage going forward,” he said. 

“We’ll look at ourselves very hard and honestly and we’ll grow from it.” – Agence France-Presse

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