Wallaby captain Horwill cleared to play B & I Lions

Wallaby captain James Horwill has been cleared of stamping British and Irish Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones which frees him up to play in this weekend’s deciding Third Test in Sydney.

The Australian captain will now take the field for the must-win third and final
Test against the tourists in Sydney on Saturday after officials cleared him
– for a second time – of stamping on Lions player Alun Wyn Jones.

“I feel very vindicated by the way that it’s gone,” Horwill said.

Horwill was cited for allegedly stamping on the head of the lock in the first
Test in Brisbane, which the tourists won 23-21.

He was initially cleared of the foul play charge and took the field for Australia’s
16-15 win over the tourists in the second Test on Saturday, but the International
Rugby Board challenged his acquittal with an independent appeal.

The Australian Rugby Union said Tuesday that independent appeal officer Graeme
Mew had dismissed that challenge, which was unprecedented as the IRB has never
before intervened to overturn a not guilty verdict against a player.

After a two-and-a-half-hour videoconference hearing and extensive deliberation,
Canadian arbitrator Mew upheld the original decision, saying there had been
“no misapprehension of law or principle” proven and no evidence that
the acquittal was unreasonable.

“There was sufficient evidence upon which a reasonable judicial officer
could have reached the decision that was made,” Mew said of the original
ruling in Horwill’s favour.

Horwill learned of Mew’s decision during the team’s Tuesday morning training
session and said he felt relieved that the “right result” had been
reached and the team could move on.

He described both hearings as “incredibly fair and thorough”.

“It means a hell of a lot to me to represent my country, and not only
to represent but the opportunity to lead it in what is probably, arguably, the
biggest game in this country since the Rugby World Cup final in 2003,”
he said.

“So I’m very excited at that opportunity, and now we can focus on the
game and that’s what important.”

Wallaby coach Robbie Deans would not be drawn on the controversy surrounding
the appeal, saying the team had “more important – well in our eyes –
more exciting events” to focus on.

“We’ve now got clarity. We can push on with our preparation and give ourselves
the best chance of succeeding that we can,” he said.

“It was thorough and fair and just – and that’s all you seek on these
occasions.”

Deans said Horwill’s inclusion in Saturday’s blockbuster third Test in Sydney
was a welcome boost to the team and they would be “stoked to have James
back”.

“He’s right at the heart of what we do and you can see what it means to
him,” said Deans.

“He’s a very forthright man, he’s a man of high integrity, his ethics
are good. His teammates respect him for all of that.”

The Lions will be without their skipper, Sam Warburton, for the decider after
the flanker was ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Mew said the IRB appeal, which drew outrage from the Australian camp, had been
appropriate to safeguard player welfare and protect rugby’s image and reputation.

Australia’s Rugby Union Players’ Association (RUPA) welcomed the ruling, saying
it had been surprised and disappointed at the IRB’s appeal which it described
as a “dangerous precedent” with questionable motives.

“RUPA still remains sufficiently concerned with the perceived inconsistencies
with the processes and, as such, has raised the matter with the International
Rugby Players Association and requested that IRPA raise the matter formally
with the IRB,” said RUPA chief Greg Harris.

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