In the world of dramatic productions, they call it jumping the shark.

It's the moment credibility is lost, when the plot becomes so far-fetched, so ridiculous that the integrity is compromised to the point where interest inevitably diminishes.

World Rugby has jumped the shark in this business with Sonny Bill Williams. The process, the outcome, the reaction - where to start because each has been farcical? With every step of this preposterous saga, hope has faded that the game is in safe hands.

It really isn't. What's become clear in the last month is that if rugby is left in the charge of non-diverse, middle-aged men, they will do to it what they do to everything else and treat it like a private club where only they know the rules.


If there was a nadir among so many lows, it was reached when World Rugby felt the need to pass judgement on the decision by the second judicial panel to uphold Williams' appeal and determine that the 'Game of Three Halves' does meet the criteria to be considered a bona fide match and can, therefore, be included in his four-game suspension.

By issuing a statement in which World Rugby said it was "surprised" at the outcome, the governing body shifted the gut feel of the Williams' saga being driven by incompetence to it perhaps being the result of something more sinister.

While World Rugby appoints the judicial officers, the system is supposed to be independent. It's hard to believe in the integrity of that when the governing body expresses a view - any view - after decisions are made.

Would the panel have been rewarded with a public endorsement of their findings by World Rugby had they rejected Williams' appeal?

Is this the future of judicial hearings - supposedly independent panels working more with the aim of pleasing World Rugby than offering those in the dock a right to a fair process?

Or, more precisely, is this the future of judicial hearings involving All Blacks? Lest anyone should forget, the Williams' case is not the first time World Rugby has expressed dissatisfaction with the findings of an independent panel.

In 2012 Adam Thomson was handed a two-week suspension, reduced to one for previous good conduct, for stamping on the head of Scotland flanker Alasdair Strokosch. As the judgement was released, almost instantaneously World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper tweeted that the case would be reviewed.

Strangely World Rugby only feels the need to comment on cases involving All Blacks and who knows, maybe that can be traced back to an incident in 2009 when former World Rugby chief Mike Miller, is believed to have intervened to ensure Daniel Carter was cited for a high tackle against Wales in Cardiff.

But if the reaction was the nadir, it was only just as it took 33 days for two separate panels to contradict each other.

And what can't get lost is the outcome. Let neither Williams nor the All Blacks be cast as villain for they have tried to work the weakness and ambiguity of the system the same as every other player and team would.

The All Blacks accepted the seriousness of Williams' actions the night he was sent off. They agreed it was a red card offence and Williams has intimated by expressing his gratitude that the first panel didn't think he had operated with intent, that he accepts he was reckless.

It's not within his ability to determine his sanction and those who are rightly incensed that Williams is effectively only going to miss one test - the third in the series against the Lions - should direct their ire at World Rugby who on this front, are open to accusations of frightful mixed messages.

The governing body is on a commendable crusade to protect players' heads by applying tougher penalties to those who tackle high. It's a number one priority and yet Anthony Watson, the Lions wing who was the victim of Williams' reckless tackle in Wellington, may be thinking justice hasn't been done and World Rugby have failed him.