Australia captain James Horwill escapes a ban after claiming he was off balance

Horwill cleared of stamping by Kiwi judicial officer as rival coaches forced to call up replacements for the injured

If the Lions dodged a bullet in the first Test against the Wallabies – had Australia been blessed with a goal-kicker worthy of the name, they would almost certainly have won – the home team evaded a disciplinary cannonball yesterday when James Horwill, their hugely influential captain, was cleared of stamping on the face of Alun Wyn Jones, his rival lock. Had Horwill been banned, the Lions would have been overwhelming favourites to win the series. Now, the outcome is not so clear.

To make matters worse for the Lions ahead of the second Test in Melbourne on Saturday, there are worries over the fitness of two of the tight forwards who imposed themselves on the Wallabies at the weekend. The England loose-head prop Alex Corbisiero, called into the squad after both Cian Healy and Gethin Jenkins picked up tour-ending injuries, has a damaged calf muscle. In addition, the experienced Ireland lock Paul O'Connell suffered an arm injury during the 23-21 victory two days ago and is under assessment.

Warren Gatland, the Lions' head coach, did not send for second-row cover, but he called up the Irish prop Tom Court for tomorrow's contest with a strong Melbourne Rebels side – the final midweek game of the trip. Court, born in Brisbane, was here on holiday, and will sit on the bench, thereby removing from the dirt-trackers' equation Mako Vunipola, who should start against the Wallabies if Corbisiero fails to recover.

The last thing Gatland felt he needed after receiving the latest injury bulletin was to risk the exciting Saracens forward against the Rebels.

Gatland and the Lions hierarchy alerted the authorities to Horwill's alleged misdemeanour after watching footage of a third-minute incident in which the Queenslander's right boot caught Jones in the face as the Welshman lay prone and defenceless at the bottom of a ruck. Jones required a couple of stitches to a wound near his left eye.

"Our feeling after the game was that the citing officer needed to have a look," said Gatland, who, as a former All Black hooker, was raised in the toughest of rugby schools. "I played in the age of rucking and still have scars to prove it, but even then the head was sacrosanct. You steered clear of that part of the body."

On the evidence of the available footage, Horwill appeared to have a serious case to answer. Indeed, some Australian pundits assumed he would be found guilty and banned from the remainder of the series, and then some. But after three hours of examination, the independent judicial officer Nigel Hampton QC, a New Zealander, decided the citing could not be upheld.

"I could not find that when James Horwill's right foot came into glancing contact with Alun Wyn Jones' face, he was acting recklessly," Hampton said in a statement. "I found that I could not reject as implausible or improbable Horwill's explanation that as he was driving forward with his right leg raised, he was spun off balance through the impact of Lions players entering the ruck from the opposite side."

It was Hampton who cleared Healy of a biting charge following the Lions' first game in Australia, against Western Force in Perth a little over three weeks ago. While the tourists are unlikely to be as satisfied with this latest verdict – there is a long history of British and Irish discontent with the disciplinary process during major tours of the southern hemisphere – the Wallabies will be mightily relieved. Horwill verges on the irreplaceable as the man who holds their pack together.

Robbie Deans, the Wallaby coach, added three players to his squad yesterday following the rash of injuries that affected his side so badly in the first Test. The full-back Jesse Mogg, a key figure in the ACT Brumbies' victory over the Lions in Canberra last week, and the centre Ben Tapuai, who performed strongly against the tourists for Queensland Reds, were summoned, as was the 32-year-old flanker George Smith, who played against the Lions in 2001.

Meanwhile, Tommy Bowe, the Ulster wing, will be considered for Test duty in Melbourne after recovering from the broken hand he suffered against the Reds. Manu Tuilagi, the England centre, is also fit following shoulder issues and will face the Rebels in a strong midweek side led by his red-rose colleague Geoff Parling, who played the last 10 minutes of the Test.

Sean Maitland, Owen Farrell, Richard Hibbard, Dan Cole and Dan Lydiate, who were on bench duty on Saturday, will start tomorrow.

Should the lions change a winning side?

Twelve years ago, Graham Henry changed a successful side for the second Test by rejigging his back row. It was too clever by half, and the Lions lost. Despite the precedent, Warren Gatland will be tempted to tweak things for this weekend's match.

Right wing

With the Ulsterman Tommy Bowe available after his super-fast recovery from a broken hand, Gatland could throw him in at the expense of Alex Cuthbert. This would be tough on the Welshman, whose high-class finish in Brisbane saved the Lions, but Bowe is undeniably the quality wing of the two.

Outside centre

England centre Manu Tuilagi has also avoided an early flight home. Now the human bowling ball's shoulder is up to scratch, a destructive performance against the Melbourne Rebels will set Gatland thinking. A solution is a seat on the bench ahead of Sean Maitland.

Back row

Can England flanker Tom Croft and Ireland No 8 Jamie Heaslip coexist in the same loose unit with their similar skill sets? This could be a chance for Toby Faletau, Sean O'Brien or the hard-tackling Dan Lydiate, above. A delicate call.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
This weekend's 'Big Hero 6' by Disney Animation Studios
arts + ents
News
i100
News
Budapest, 1989. Sleepware and panties.
newsDavid Hlynsky's images of Soviet Union shop windows shine a light on our consumerist culture
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
News
In humans, the ability to regulate the expression of genes through thoughts alone could open up an entirely new avenue for medicine.
science
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee