'No deliberate failure' in Sonny Bill Williams HIA oversight

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

SANZAAR has cleared New Zealand Rugby of any 'deliberate failure' to comply with concussion protocol, after reviewing Sonny Bill Williams' head knock in the opening Bledisloe.

Williams was involved in a collision in the opening minutes of the match and appeared visibly dazed afterward, but was not taking from the field for a Head Injury Assessment (HIA).

The Rugby Championship's governing body investigated the incident in the wake of the match, requesting a report from the All Blacks as to why the centre wasn't taken from the field at the time.

SANZAAR's investigation did determine that Williams should have been taken from the field at the time, but the clash wasn't noticed by officials in the moment.

Despite that overshight SANZAAR said in a statement the review had ' established there has not been a deliberate failure or an 'Untoward Incident' pursuant to the terms of participation and as such finds no actions that constitute misconduct'.

“This is an unfortunate set of circumstances given the acute focus and attention we are all applying to player safety and in particular the HIA protocols," SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos said.

Sonny Bill Williams has been training with the All Blacks this week. Photo: Getty Images"NZ Rugby has been proactive in its management of Sonny Bill Williams and we have full confidence in its processes to manage his return to play - as NZR has illustrated with other players such as Dane Coles and Ben Smith this year already.

“As a consequence, and even though there was no deliberate failure apparent, SANZAAR has taken the opportunity to strongly reinforce World Rugby HIA protocols including video analysis during the game, to all teams, match day medical staff and match officials participating in The Rugby Championship.

“Additionally, New Zealand Rugby has confirmed that Sonny Bill Williams is being managed in line with World Rugby HIA protocols, including HIA 3 and computer neuro-cognitive assessment, and will progress to a graduated return to play if asymptomatic."

SANZAAR took the opportunity, though, to 'urgently reinforce World Rugby’s Head Injury Assessment (HIA) protocols to all teams, medical staff and match officials involved in The Rugby Championship'.

The four-nation body said it was rolling out further educational materials for relevant officials.

New HIA laws will come into effect this Saturday, with a mandated 10-minute window to be inforced for any player undergoing an HIA, a process that currently averages around seven minutes. 

All Blacks medical staff had cleared Williams of any symptoms, with the 32-year-old named in their second Bledisloe team on Thursday morning.