Australia skipper James Horwill cleared of stamping and will play in Lions Test decider
Last Updated: 02/07/13 2:26pm
Australia captain James Horwill has been cleared to play in Saturday's deciding Test against the British and Irish Lions in Sydney.
The International Rugby Board's appeal for his alleged stamp on Alun-Wyn Jones, overseen by independent appeal officer Graeme Mew, was not upheld, ensuring the original decision to exonerate Horwill stands.
"There was sufficient evidence upon which a reasonable judicial officer could have reached the decision that was made," Mew said.
"Accordingly it could not be said that the judicial officer was manifestly wrong or that the interests of justice otherwise required his decision be overturned."
Horwill brought his foot down on to Jones' head in the third minute of Australia's 23-21 defeat in the first Test at Suncorp Stadium and the Lions second row subsequently required stitches in a wound above his eye.
A disciplinary hearing held 24 hours later determined that on the balance of probabilities there was no act of foul play. The judgment was widely condemned and the IRB decided it would appeal.
"For the appeal to succeed the IRB would have to establish that there was some misapprehension of law or principle by the judicial officer or that his decision was so clearly wrong or manifestly unreasonable that no judicial officer could have reached the conclusion that he did," Mew said.
Mew also stated that the IRB's appeal had been properly taken in the discharge of its responsibilities to promote and ensure player welfare and to protect the image and the reputation of the game.
A beaming Horwill, who revealed that he had been unable to sleep overnight while waiting for Mew's verdict, welcomed what he viewed as the correct outcome.
"I'm very relieved. The two hearings have been very fair. I found out about 10am (1am BST)," the 28-year-old lock said.
"I was confident because I know what happened and I'm glad the right result was made in the end.
"I love what I do and it means a hell of a lot to me to lead my country in what is probably the biggest game since the World Cup final in 2003.
"I'm very excited by the opportunity and now we can focus on the game, which is what's important. I feel very vindicated by the ruling.
"Other than not getting much sleep, it hasn't caused any disruption. I've just gone on with it, that's the reality of what we do."
Following the decision the IRB issued a statement accepting Mew's decision in which it said: "The protection of players from foul play, intentional or otherwise, is vital in upholding the values and image of rugby and to send a clear message to all levels of the game that such acts are unacceptable.
"In light of the potential adverse implications, the IRB is keen to ensure all acts of foul play involving the head should be given serious and thorough consideration. This was recognised by the appeal officer in his decision.
"The IRB would like to acknowledge the professional manner in which the Australian Rugby Union managed the process as host union of the tour. The IRB will be making no further comment on the case."