New Zealand centre Sonny Bill Williams has been handed a four-week suspension for his dangerous shoulder charge on Anthony Watson during the All Blacks' eventful 24-21 defeat by the British and Irish Lions in Wellington on Saturday (1 July).

Williams was shown a red card for the challenge midway through the first half and will now miss the decisive third test in Auckland next Saturday. The 30-year-old became the first All Black to be sent off since 1967, when Colin Meads was given his marching orders against Scotland at Murrayfield.

The Blues star learned his fate at a judicial hearing on Sunday and gave a brief statement after the verdict was delivered. He expressed his disappointment about letting his teammates down and revealed that he has apologised to Watson, who was able to carry on and help Warren Gatland's side secure a memorable victory.

Just finished my hearing, ended up getting four weeks. Obviously really disappointed, but happy with being able to get in there and say my piece," Williams was quoted as saying by Stuff.

"They've come to the conclusion that it was reckless, it wasn't intentional. I've got in contact with Anthony [Watson] and I've apologised to him, but very disappointed that I was sent from the field last night and let my brothers down."

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen defended Williams after the second Test and believes there is no point dwelling on his mistake which swung the clash in the Lions' favour.

"He is disappointed because he let the team down," Hansen told reporters on Sunday. "One of our biggest mantras is the team comes first and he knows he has let the team down, but we can't go back and change it.

Sonny Bill Williams
Referee Jerome Garces had no choice but to Williams a red card. Getty Images

"People make mistakes. It's a fluid game, a fast game and a physical game. Unfortunately, he's made a mistake and we've got to move on from it.

"Sonny has paid a big price and the team has paid a big price for him making a mistake, and we have to wear the decision. That's just the way it goes. Let's move on and talk about how good a Test match it was."