Lions in Australia

Wallabies captain stands firm

2013-06-28 08:42
James Horwill (AFP)

Sydney - James Horwill said on Friday he remains focused on Saturday's crucial second Test against the British and Irish Lions despite the International Rugby Board's controversial decision to re-open judicial proceedings against the Wallabies captain.

The IRB on Thursday said it would appeal the decision of its own appointed judicial officer to clear Horwill of stamping on British and Irish Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones in last weekend's first Test, won 23-21 by the tourists in Brisbane.

Horwill was cited but the IRB judicial officer Nigel Hampton subsequently found that, on the balance of probabilities, he could not find an intentional or deliberate action of stamping or trampling after viewing the incident from nine different camera angles.

The Australian Rugby Union said it was the first time the game's governing body has sought to appeal a decision by its own judicial officer's finding when a player has been cleared in a hearing.

Horwill said the IRB was entitled to launch an appeal, but he insisted he had done nothing with intent or malice against Wyn Jones, who was at the bottom of a ruck when the incident happened in the third minute of the opening Test.

"I've played 130 professional rugby games and I've never been cited once, never attended any judicial hearing, so it was a complete accident," Horwill told a press conference on Friday.

"Unfortunately, accidents happen in rugby, it's a contact sport but there was no intent or malice from me to do anything.

"I had no idea that Alun (Wyn Jones) was anywhere near my feet and that's what I am sticking by.

"I got a very fair hearing the first time and I expect it to be no different come the second time.

"I don't know too much about it, I've been focused on the game and once the game's finished I'll have a better look at it.

"We have a legal team in place that are going through it at the moment and my focus is completely on this weekend."

The IRB said it had received the full written decision from the hearing on Monday and following a detailed review of the evidence and the written decision it notified the Australian Rugby Union within the 72 permissible hours that it was going to appeal the case.

The appeal will be heard by Canadian judicial official Graeme Mew following the second Test, in which Horwill is free to play, the IRB said.

Horwill would face a suspension if the IRB wins its appeal.

A spokesman for the Lions said Friday: "The British and Irish Lions did not approach IRB about the appeal. That's on the record."

The ARU said it was "surprised and disappointed" by the IRB announcement, saying it was the first time the federation had exercised its right to set aside a "not guilty" verdict.

"This is an unprecedented step taken by the IRB in what is the most important rugby event staged in Australia since the 2003 Rugby World Cup, said ARU chief executive Bill Pulver.

"While we respect the right of the IRB to intervene, we also respect the knowledge and experience of appointed - and independent - Judicial Officers, and their expertise to consider evidence and reach sound findings.

"James Horwill was cleared of the stamping charge as per the IRB's established judicial process. We are surprised and disappointed that the finding of Mr Hampton is now not only under question but deemed to be 'erroneous'."

The appeal had the potential to cause "serious disruption" to the Wallabies, Pulver added, insisting that they had followed IRB due process to the letter.

Horwill revealed that during the marathon three hour-plus hearing nine camera angles were used to show the incident.

"I feel that I got a fair and thorough hearing and got a good decision and the right decision so that's all I'm focused on. I was very happy with the way the whole thing went," the Wallabies skipper said.

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