Meddling IRB give Wallabies higher ground before crucial third Test
Home side retain their captain James Horwill for a second time after a judicial hearing
Some figures in the IRB were perhaps mindful of previous disciplinary controversies on Lions’ tours, be it Speargate in 2005 or Schalk Burger’s mere eight-week ban for gouging Luke Fitzgerald in 2009. But they picked the wrong case and the whole farrago will not have helped the divide between the hemispheres in the powers that be,
So angered were they by the IRB’s appeal that the ARU hired Steve Cottrell, formerly the general counsel of the NZRU, with whom he is still contracted as a strategic advisor, and Horwill pointedly thanked him yesterday in revealing he hadn’t slept at all on Monday night pending the outcome of the IRB’s appeal.
“Other than not getting any sleep last night there has not been any disruption for me throughout the process,” he said. “It is the reality of what we do. I have just had to get on with it. I wouldn’t like to see another player go through it, but it was incredibly fair and thorough,” he added before revealing he had been informed of the verdict in the middle of training.
“I am excited about playing and I’d like to put this behind me now and just focus on the game.”
Deans admitted: “We had to contemplate not having James available for the weekend. We were always hopeful, but you can never be sure. We had plans in place, but we are happy not to have to implement them. We are delighted to have him back.”
Having attended both hearings, the Wallabies’ head coach maintained the process “was thorough, fair and just and that’s all you seek on these occasions. The fact it was thorough and fair meant it reflected well on rugby. I have no doubt they (the IRB) will routinely review what they do”.
As to the notion that, ala the Lions’ over the top PR campaign in the week after Speargate, the whole saga might serve to galvanise his side more, Deans maintained: “It won’t give us an edge – it is how you use your group. From our group’s perspective they will be stoked to have James back. He is right at the heart of what we do and you see what it means to him and that flows onto the group.”