James Horwill is free to lead the Qantas Wallabies into the decisive third Test with the British & Irish Lions at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday.
The appeal by the International Rugby Board against the dismissal of his citing complaint was today over ruled by Canadian Judicial Officer Graeme Mew after a second lengthy hearing.
And so an incident that occurred in Brisbane 10 days ago, and was initially dealt with in Melbourne before being challenged from Dublin, has finally been decided by a QC based in Toronto.
Mew reviewed the evidence from the original case, which arose out of an alleged stamping incident in the first Test which left Horwill’s opposite number Alun Wyn Jones needing stitches in a cut beneath his eye, and took further submissions from the Wallaby skipper and his legal team via Skype in a two-and-a-half-hour session on Monday night.
The Canadian barrister had to review the initial report of his New Zealand counterpart Nigel Hampton on the citing charge brought against Horwill under Law 10.4 b, a player must not stamp or trample on an opponent.
In his written report after dismissing the citing case against the Aussie skipper, Hampton said he “could not find that when James Horwill's right foot came into glancing contact with Alun Wyn Jones' face, that he Horwill was acting recklessly."
The IRB then decided to step in and use its right to appeal any decision arising from matches under its jurisdiction, claiming it felt “compelled to further examine potential acts of foul play which either potentially or in reality impact on the preservation of player welfare.”
But Mew joined with Hampton in dismissing the complaint against Horwill. His submission said, “for the appeal to succeed the IRB would have to establish that there was some misapprehension of law or principle by the Judicial Officer or that his decision was so clearly wrong or manifestly unreasonable that no Judicial Officer could have reached the conclusion that he did.
“There was sufficient evidence upon which a reasonable Judicial Officer could have reached the decision that was made. Accordingly, it could not be said that the Judicial Offer was manifestly wrong or that the interests of justice otherwise required his decision be overturned.”
The IRB has since released the following statement, standing by its decision to issue the appeal but accepting that the case is now closed.
“The International Rugby Board fully accepts the decision by Independent Appeal Officer Graeme Mew not to uphold the IRB’s Appeal against the decision in the James Horwill disciplinary case,” read the statement.
“While ultimately not proving successful in its appeal, the IRB is satisfied that it took the right approach under Regulation 17.22.2 and in line with the tours agreement between Australia and the British & Irish Lions to further examine the case and subsequently lodge an appeal in the interests of player welfare as well as to uphold the disciplinary rules.
“The IRB is also satisfied the judicial review was entirely thorough with the Appeal Officer reserving his judgement to allow further extensive consideration of the submissions by both parties.
“The protection of players from foul play, intentional or otherwise, is vital in upholding the values and image of Rugby and to send a clear message to all levels of the Game that such acts are unacceptable. In light of the potential adverse implications, the IRB is keen to ensure all acts of foul play involving the head should be given serious and thorough consideration. This was recognised by the Appeal Officer in his decision.
“The IRB would like to acknowledge the professional manner in which the Australian Rugby Union managed the process as Host Union of the tour. The IRB will be making no further comment on the case.”