Horwill relief after IRB rule contact with Jones' face unintentional
The Wallabies have received a timely boost to their cause when a citing against their captain, second-row James Horwill, for an alleged stamp on Alun-Wyn Jones was dismissed to leave one of their key figures free to play in the second Test on Saturday.
The verdict was a surprise to many, given that video footage showed Horwill's boot make contact with the face of Jones early in the match. The Wales lock needed stitches to the wound.
The low-end tariff for such an offence is two weeks which would have put the Wallaby captain out of the series. The four-hour hearing in Melbourne ruled in his favour that the contact had not been intentional. Horwill's defence was that he had been "off-balance" and had spun into the prostrate Jones.
"After hearing all the evidence, I could not find that when Horwill's right foot came into glancing contact with Jones' face, that Horwill was acting recklessly," IRB judicial officer Nigel Hampton QC said. "I found that I could not reject as being implausible or improbable Horwill's explanation that, as he was driving forward with his right leg raised, he was spun off-balance through the impact of the Lions players entering the ruck from the opposite side."
Horwill was understandably relieved. "I'm very happy with the process and the result," Horwill said. "I'm very relieved. Hopefully, I can get some sleep and hit the ground running at training in Melbourne on Monday."
Lions head coach Warren Gatland will be gobsmacked by the verdict having voiced his views on such matters earlier in the day.
"I played in the days when rucking was allowed and I've still got some scars that bear witness to the ruckings I received, but the head was sacrosanct and you stayed away from that," Gatland said.
Australia have called up three players and may yet summon others as the medical condition of the battered and bruised clarifies. Four players, all backs, Pat McCabe (neck), Berrick Barnes (head), Adam Ashley-Cooper (shoulder) and Digby Ioane (shoulder) are still being assessed.
There was also the sight of scrum-half Will Genia limping through the hotel yesterday with heavy strapping on his knee. Genia's absence really would send the scales crashing down in favour of the Lions.
There is a return to the colours for veteran flanker George Smith, who won the last of his 110 caps four years ago against Wales. He is joined in the revamped party by Brumbies team-mate, uncapped full-back Jesse Mogg, who starred in the 14-12 win against the Lions, and Reds centre Ben Tapuai. (© Daily Telegraph, London)