Australia skipper James Horwill cleared over alleged stamping on Alun-Wyn Jones

 

Australia captain James Horwill has been cleared to play the second Test against the British and Irish Lions after his citing for stamping was dismissed.

Horwill faced a disciplinary hearing in Melbourne today for the incident involving lock Alun-Wyn Jones in the third minute of the Lions' 23-21 victory at Suncorp Stadium.

Judicial officer Nigel Hampton QC found that, on the balance of probabilities, the second row could not be found guilty of an intentional or deliberate action of stamping or trampling under law 10.4(b).

"After hearing all the evidence I could not find that, when James Horwill's right foot came into glancing contact with Alun-Wyn Jones' face, that he was acting recklessly," Hampton said.

The verdict of the disciplinary hearing, which took almost four hours, is sure to infuriate the Lions, who referred an incident that left Jones needing stitches to the citing officer.

"I found that I could not reject as being 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," Hampton continued.

"In an endeavour to regain his balance, Horwill brought his right leg to the ground unknowing that Alun-Wyn Jones' head was in that area, due to having his sight impeded by the presence of Michael Hooper and Tom Croft who were beneath him and over the top of Alun-Wyn Jones.

"Due to these reasons, I cannot uphold the citing."

 



Horwill, a combative second row and no stranger to the sin-bin in the past, will lead the Wallabies when they attempt to level the series at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

The British and Irish Lions were left nursing a deep sense of grievance today after Australia captain James Horwill was cleared to play in Saturday's second Test in Melbourne.

Horwill appeared before a disciplinary hearing after stamping on second row Alun-Wyn Jones in the third minute of the tourists' 23-21 victory at Suncorp Stadium.

Replays showed the 28-year-old lock bring his right boot down onto the head of Jones, who was lying at the bottom of a ruck and later needed stitches above his left eye.

But judicial officer Nigel Hampton QC found that on the balance of probabilities Horwill could not be found guilty of an intentional or deliberate action of stamping or trampling as laid out under Law 10.4 b.

"After hearing all the evidence I could not find that when James Horwill's right foot came into glancing contact with Alun-Wyn Jones' face, that he was acting recklessly," Hampton said.

"I found that I could not reject as being 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.

"In an endeavour to regain his balance Horwill brought his right leg to the ground unknowing that Alun Wyn Jones' head was in that area, due to having his sight impeded by the presence of Michael Hooper and Tom Croft who were beneath him and over the top of Alun-Wyn Jones.

"Due to these reasons I cannot uphold the citing."

Horwill, a combative second row who has been no stranger to the sin bin in the past, will lead the Wallabies when they attempt to level the series at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

The verdict of the disciplinary hearing will have infuriated the Lions, who referred the incident to the citing officer amid scathing words from head coach Warren Gatland.

"I played in the days when rucking was allowed and I've still got some scars that bear witness to the ruckings I had, but for me the head was sacrosanct and you stayed away from that," Gatland said.

The verdict will have strengthened the Lions' belief that they receive rough justice on disciplinary issues, of which the failure to punish New Zealand for the spear tackle on Brian O'Driscoll in 2005 is the most damning example.

The availability of their captain and most abrasive forward is a massive lift to Australia, who are still reeling from the extraordinary number of injuries sustained in yesterday's epic series opener in Brisbane.

Pat McCabe (neck), winger Digby Ioane (shoulder), centre Adam Ashley-Cooper (shoulder) and full-back Berrick Barnes (head knock) have undergone scans and a decision on their availability will be made early in the week.

Inside centre Christian Leali'ifano, who was knocked out while tackling Jonathan Davies, will also be reviewed over the coming days.

With so many players in the treatment room, coach Robbie Deans has reinforced his squad with the addition of flanker George Smith, full-back Jesse Mogg and centre Ben Tapuai.

Horwill's citing and the number of injuries has taken some of the attention away from an otherwise compelling Test that is being hailed as among the finest ever played by the Lions.

The match's two box-office stars happened to be playing on opposite wings with Israel Folau and George North both helping themselves to stunning tries.

Folau's sporting genius was verified by a clinical Test debut at Suncorp Stadium after playing less than a season of professional rugby union, a sport he arrived at via Australian rules football and rugby league.

The 24-year-old played in seven internationals for the Kangaroos and five State of Origin matches for Queensland, but he views North as his toughest opponent.

"George scored a very good try and during the week we'll need to look at the footage and see what we can do to try to limit his opportunities. He's very dangerous on the ball," he said.

"Probably George North would be the player that's been most challenging in my career, he's a very big man who is also quick for his size."

Folau could start Saturday's second Test at full-back if Deans decides to pick Kurtley Beale at fly-half and select James O'Connor elsewhere in the backline.

"I couldn't have asked for a better debut, I was very happy with my first game, but very disappointed with the result," Folau said.

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