Horwill appeal on stamping charge adjourned
SYDNEY (AP) — The International Rugby Board’s appeal of Australia captain James Horwill’s stamping case has been adjourned by judicial officer Graeme Mew of Canada, with Horwill’s place in the third and deciding test Saturday hanging in the balance.
Last week, the IRB appealed against the original decision that cleared Horwill of stamping on British and Irish Lions lock Alun-Wyn Jones in the first test on June 22 in Brisbane.
Mew heard testimony and evidence for more than two hours Monday and rugby officials indicated he won’t hand down his judgment until Tuesday morning in Sydney.
Horwill and Wallabies coach Robbie Deans left the hearing, held over a video link with Mew in Toronto, and returned to their Sydney team hotel. Australian Associated Press reported that Horwill and Deans were expected to hold a media conference in Sydney on Tuesday.
The original decision last week by New Zealand-based judicial officer Nigel Hampton determined that there was no foul committed and said Horwill was not guilty of the charge.
If Horwill is banned from playing the third test in Sydney, it would mean both captains were lost to their teams. Earlier Monday, Lions flanker Sam Warburton was ruled out of the third match with a torn left hamstring.
Horwill said last week he was “confident of what happened on the field.”
“I got a very fair hearing the first time and I expect it to be no different come the second time,” he said. “I don’t know too much about it, I’ve been focused on the game and once the game is finished I will have a better look at it.”
The original hearing, he said, ” was four hours and we had nine different camera angles to look at so it was very thorough and in that case the hearing went through its due process via an IRB-appointed judicial officer.”
Jones needed stitches to a head wound after the Lions won the first test 23-21 and Horwill was subsequently cited. Hampton’s original finding caused outrage among fans in Britain, and the Dublin-based IRB said it wanted to “further examine potential acts of foul play which either potentially or in reality impact on the preservation of player welfare.”
Horwill said the one TV angle shown on replays wasn’t a full reflection of the incident, when he claimed to have lost balance before making contact with Jones’ head with his right boot.
“You can slow anything down to make it look different but if you look at the other angles you can see what happened,” Horwill said. “I’ve played more than 130 professional rugby games and never been cited once and never been to any judicial hearings.
“It was a complete accident. Unfortunately accidents happen in rugby — it’s a contact sport. There was no intent or malice.”
The ARU says the IRB had never used its power to set aside a not guilty verdict. It says the IRB’s only previous intervention led to All Blacks forward Adam Thomson having a one-week ban increased to two weeks on appeal.
“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,” ARU chief executive Bill Pulver said in a statement. “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.”
AP Sports Writer John Pye contributed to this story from Brisbane, Australia.