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Sean O'Brien ready to play in Lions decider after citing complaint thrown out

Sean O'Brien says he is looking forward to rejoining the British and Irish Lions squad after a citing complaint against him was dismissed.

The Lions and Ireland flanker is free to play in next Saturday's Test series decider against New Zealand.

O'Brien was reported by match citing commissioner Scott Nowland for allegedly striking New Zealand wing Waisake Naholo with his arm during Saturday's second Test.

O'Brien denied he committed an offence during a lengthy three-man judicial hearing in Wellington on Sunday, with the citing complaint subsequently being thrown out.

In a response issued to the verdict by the Lions, O'Brien said: "Firstly, I hope Waisake is OK.

"I would like to thank the panel for carefully considering the case, and I am looking forward to rejoining the whole squad to prepare for the final Test."

And Lions head coach Warren Gatland added: "We would like to thank the panel for their professional and diligent approach.

"Sean is a tough but fair player, and we are pleased that the panel dismissed the citing."

The Lions, fresh from a 24-21 second Test victory over the All Blacks in Wellington, have now decamped to the Southern Alps' tourist hot-spot of Queenstown for a few days' rest and recuperation.

And the O'Brien news is a huge boost for the Lions as they target victory in Auckland next weekend, which would give them a first Test series triumph against New Zealand since 1971.

Uncompromising Leinster forward O'Brien impressed in the second Test win, and he is set to be a key part of Gatland's plans at Eden Park.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's hearing, Lions assistant coach Graham Rowntree paid O'Brien a glowing compliment.

"Sean had an outstanding game carrying the ball for us on Saturday," Rowntree said.

"He's the barometer of our energy and aggression in the game; his ball pressure, his tackling, his carrying. He's been outstanding."

In a statement, New Zealand Rugby said: "British and Irish Lions player Sean O'Brien was cited by independent citing commissioner Scott Nowland under Law 10.4 (a) for striking All Blacks No. 14 in the second Test match played between the All Blacks and the British and Irish Lions on Saturday, 1 July 2017 at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

"O'Brien denied he committed an offence under Law 10.4(a).

"Having conducted a detailed review of all the evidence available, including all video footage and additional evidence from the player and submissions from his legal representative Max Duthie, the independent judicial committee comprising Adam Casselden SC (chair), David Croft and John Langford dismissed the citing complaint."

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