IRB to appeal James Horwill decision
Australian captain had been cleared of stamping on Alun-Wyn Jones in first test against the Lions
Wallabies captain James Horwill
Australia captain James Horwill could miss a potentially decisive third test against the British and Irish Lions after the International Rugby Board today appealed against the decision to clear him of stamping.
Horwill escaped punishment for his stamp on Alun-Wyn Jones in the third minute of Saturday’s 23-21 defeat in Brisbane after a disciplinary hearing held 24 hours later determined that on the balance of probabilities there was no act of foul play.
It was a judgment that was widely condemned and the IRB has now confirmed to the Australian Rugby Union following an extensive review of the case that it is to appeal the verdict.
In a statement released today, the IRB said that the appeal would take place after Saturday’s second test in Melbourne.
Replays showed Horwill bring his right boot down onto the head of Jones, who was lying at the bottom of a ruck and later needed stitches above his left eye.
The Lions referred the incident to the citing officer and the decision to clear the Wallabies lock was greeted with disbelief.
An IRB statement read: “As the 2013 Lions tour falls within the scope of the IRB merit-based appointment scheme approved by the IRB Council, the IRB has the right to appeal any decision arising from matches under the scheme.
“Furthermore, 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.
“It is important for the IRB to ensure amongst all stakeholders in the game that there is full confidence that priority is given to player welfare and the values of the game.”
The ARU responded immediately with a strongly-worded statement in which chief executive Bill Pulver accused the IRB of disrupting the “positive atmosphere surrounding the tour”.
“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 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’.
“In the midst of an extraordinarily successful series that has been 12 years in the making, the re-hearing process — not even taking into consideration the possible outcomes — has the potential to cause serious disruption to the Wallabies and the positive atmosphere surrounding the tour.
“The ARU in no way condones foul play. However, the process was followed according to IRB regulations and the decision of an independent judicial officer handed down. What has occurred subsequently is without precedent.”