Monday 20 November 2017

Aussies want review as appeal leaves Horwill in 'utter mental disarray'

Gavin Mairs in Sydney

The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) is to write to the International Rugby Board to demand a review of the judicial process that led to Wallabies captain James Horwill (pictured) facing two separate hearings before being cleared of allegedly stamping on the head of Lions lock Alun-Wyn Jones.

ARU chief executive Bill Pulver said that Horwill had been left in "complete and utter mental disarray" after having to wait 14 and a half hours to learn the verdict of the IRB's appeal after the the 28-year-old had originally been cleared of foul play at an independent disciplinary hearing.

The decision means Horwill is free to play against the Lions in the third Test on Saturday.

At first glance, the judgment appeared to be huge stroke of luck for the Australians, given the damning video evidence. Stephen Larkham, the former Wallaby full-back, said: "I am very surprised that he got away with what he did."

But despite the written judgment revealing Jones suffered a "laceration to the medial aspect of the upper left (eye) lid," the ARU are now claiming to be the victims in the affair.

Lions manager Andy Irvine said that he thought the incident may have warranted punishment, but the tourists accepted the verdict.

"It's a difficult one," Irvine said. "But I've seen a hell of a lot worse in my time and it's really up to the judicial officer, he looked at all the different angles and replays."

Former Lions were less generous to the IRB. "What a joke," said Ugo Monye.

It has also emerged that, contrary to Aussie claims that this was an isolated incident, Horwill had been previously issued with an off-field yellow card for stamping on Western Force prop Pek Cowan during a Super Rugby match for the Queensland Reds in May.

Pulver, however, said it was "completely unfair" that Horwill (right) had been forced to go through another hearing after the IRB appeal the original decision.

"It was a drawn-out saga that left the Australian captain in complete and utter mental disarray," Pulver said.

Both ARU representatives on the IRB council were part of the unani-mous vote in June 2012 to give the governing body the right to appeal against decisions made by disciplinary hearings in June and November involving tier one nations. The process was also part of the Lions tour agreement of Australia. The IRB's appeal was heard by judicial officer Graeme Mew, who reviewed the case from Toronto, while the IRB's disciplinary officer, Susan Ahern, prosecuted from Moscow.

Horwill and his legal representatives, including Australia coach Robbie Deans, defended their case at the Wallabies team hotel. Mew concluded that there had been "sufficient evidence upon which a reasonable judicial officer could have reached the decision (to clear Horwill).

"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 said: "You just want to know and that's not only for my sake, but for the team's sake as well, we want to be able to prepare as well as we can and to do that we needed clarity. I wouldn't like to see another player go through that, but it was fair and thorough.

Asked if he'd had any contact with Jones, Horwill added: "I spoke to him after the game, before I knew there was a citing. I haven't spoken to him since, but I'm sure at the end of the series we'll get a chance to sit down and have a beer with all of their players, once the job is done for one team."

BOLSTER

Key to Horwill's successful defence of the IRB appeal was his representation by former New Zealand Rugby Union lawyer Steve Cottrell, who had been hired by the ARU in a bid to bolster Horwill's legal representation during the hearing.

Cottrell's expertise in sports law and strategy had been key in challenging the IRB's grounds for re-trying Horwill on a stamping charge the same ruling body dismissed eight days ago.

Deans said the decision to clear Horwill had still given his squad a boost ahead of the third Test.

"We've now got clarity and we can give ourselves the best chance to succeed at the weekend," he said.

"From the group's perspective, they are stoked up to have James. He's at the heart of what we do.

"It's good to have him out there with us. He's a very forthright man, a man of high integrity. His work ethic is huge, he will play until he can't play anymore and from a players' pers-pective, that's what you want alongside you."

The IRB, which had come under fierce criticism in Australia for its handling of the process, said that it accepted Mew's decision. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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