Rugby Championship: Sonny Bill Williams starts for New Zealand against Australia

Sonny Bill Williams
Sonny Bill Williams was the first All Blacks player for 50 years to be sent off

Sonny Bill Williams will start at centre in New Zealand's Rugby Championship opener against Australia after completing a four-match ban.

Williams, 32, was sent off in the second Lions Test and successfully appealed against a decision not to include a warm-up game in his ban.

Ex-Wasps back Kurtley Beale, 28, will make his first appearance for Australia since the 2015 World Cup final.

Australia host holders New Zealand in Sydney on Saturday at 11:00 BST.

South Africa then face Argentina in Port Elizabeth at 16:00 BST.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has made six changes to the side that drew the third Test against the British and Irish Lions in July.

Ryan Crotty partners Williams at centre, Damian McKenzie comes in at full-back, Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane are named on the wings, while Liam Squire replaces Jerome Kaino at blind-side flanker.

Williams has not played since he was red carded for a shoulder charge on Anthony Watson during the Lions' second Test victory over New Zealand on 1 July.

He was cleared to play against Australia after an independent appeal committee ruled a 'game of three halves' involving provincial sides and the All Blacks had sufficient meaning to be part of Williams' suspension.

"He's certainly raring to go - it's been an awkward time for him, it's been tough," said assistant coach Ian Foster.

"He's made sure that he has used that time smartly, he's trained well and been able to get on top of a couple of niggles."

Kurtley Beale
Kurtley Beale has not played for Australia since defeat by New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup final

Beale left Wasps at the end of the Premiership season to rejoin former side New South Wales Waratahs after he was advised to return to fulfil his ambition of playing in the 2019 World Cup.

He scored 12 tries in 60 Tests for the Wallabies prior to a knee injury he suffered in the 2016 Super Rugby season, which also delayed his debut for Wasps.

Beale is one of five changes made by coach Michael Cheika from the side that beat beat Italy 40-27 in Brisbane in June.

Curtis Rona makes his debut on the left wing, Henry Speight comes in on the right wing, Samu Kerevi partners Beale at centre, while Sean McMahon starts at number eight.

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