Horwill cleared to play in decider
Australia captain James Horwill has been cleared to play in Saturday's deciding Test against the British and Irish Lions in Sydney.
The International Rugby Board's appeal for his alleged stamp on Alun-Wyn Jones, overseen by independent appeal officer Graeme Mew, was not upheld, ensuring the original decision to exonerate Horwill stands.
"There was sufficient evidence upon which a reasonable judicial officer could have reached the decision that was made," Mew said. "Accordingly it could not be said that the judicial officer was manifestly wrong or that the interests of justice otherwise required his decision be overturned."
Horwill brought his foot down on to Jones' head in the third minute of Australia's 23-21 defeat in the first Test at Suncorp Stadium and the Lions second row subsequently required stitches in a wound above his eye.
A disciplinary hearing held 24 hours later determined that on the balance of probabilities there was no act of foul play. The judgment was widely condemned and the IRB reacted by announcing on Thursday that following an extensive review of the case it would appeal.
After two and a half hours of discussions conducted by video conference, Mew retired to consider his decision and gave his verdict shortly before Australia were due to convene for a rescheduled press conference with Horwill at 4am BST. "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," Mew said.
Mew also stated that the IRB's appeal had been properly taken in the discharge of its responsibilities to promote and ensure player welfare and to protect the image and the reputation of the game.
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. "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."