Horwill stamping hearing adjourned
Australia captain waits to hear fate ahead of third Test
Australia’s captain James Horwill is still waiting on the results of his appeal hearing. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images
Australia captain James Horwill must wait until Tuesday in Australia to learn whether he will be able to play in Saturday’s third and deciding rugby Test against the British and Irish Lions in Sydney.
Horwill was cleared by New Zealand judicial officer Nigel Hampton on June 23 of stamping on rival lock Alun Wyn Jones in the first Test but the International Rugby Board (IRB) appealed against the verdict.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported today that the appeal hearing had been adjourned after nearly two hours.
“The judicial officer Graeme Mew, who is based in Canada, then retired to consider his verdict which is not expected to be made public until the early hours of Tuesday morning,” the report said.
The appeal took two and a half hours — 90 minutes shorter than the original hearing — and was conducted by video conference call. Horwill brought his foot down on to Jones’ head in the third minute of Australia’s 23-21 defeat at Suncorp Stadium and the Lions secondrow required stitches in a wound above his eye. A disciplinary hearing held 24 hours later determined that on the balance of probabilities that there was no act of foul play.
The judgement was widely condemned with Brian O’Driscoll declaring that Horwill was “a lucky boy and I’m sure he knows it himself”, while Wallabies great Stephen Larkham was bemused by the outcome. “It seems fairly blatant to me and I can’t believe that he got off in the first instance. I can’t believe that they got away with their argument that he was unsighted,” Larkham said.
The IRB reacted by announcing on Thursday that following an extensive review of the case it would appeal. Under regulation 17.22.2 the IRB has the right to appeal disciplinary decisions but has never invoked the rule for a not guilty verdict. Its only previous intervention led to New Zealand forward Adam Thomson having a one-week ban – also imposed for stamping – increased to two weeks last November.
“Given its duty to preserve player welfare at all levels of the game, the IRB is compelled to further examine potential acts of foul play which either potentially or in reality impact on the preservation of player welfare,” read an IRB statement.
The ARU were disappointed by the IRB’s intervention, while the Lions were forced to deny suggestions that they had put pressure on the global game’s governing body to act.
Horwill protested his innocence on Friday, stating that the nine camera angles used during the original disciplinary hearing proved his innocence. “I’ve played 130 professional rugby games and have never been cited once, never attending any judicial hearing,” Horwill said. “I had no intent and it was a complete accident and unfortunately accidents happen in rugby. It’s a contact sport.”
If Horwill is banned for the final Test in Sydney, scrumhalf Will Genia will take over as captain of Australia.