Australia captain James Horwill said his alleged stamp on British and Irish Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones in last week’s series opener was an accident after rugby’s governing body challenged a decision to clear him of foul play.
The International Rugby Board said yesterday it appealed an IRB-appointed judicial officer’s ruling to acquit Horwill after he was cited for allegedly stamping or trampling on Wyn Jones’s head in the third minute of Australia’s 23-21 loss to the Lions in Brisbane six days ago.
The appeal hearing will take place after tomorrow’s second Test between the teams in Melbourne at a date yet to be confirmed. An unfavorable decision could rule Australia’s captain out of a potential July 6 series decider in Sydney. Horwill, who’s free to play pending the appeal outcome, said today that he was oblivious a stamping incident had even occurred until the morning after the match.
“When I was told I was cited, I still had no idea of what it was for until I was shown the incident,” Horwill said at a news conference. “It was a completely accidental act. There was no intent from my side, there was no malice. I completely had no idea that Alun was anywhere near my feet.”
After the Lions referred the incident to the match citing commissioner, Horwill was exonerated by judicial officer Nigel Hampton on the grounds that he could not rule that the action was deliberately reckless. The IRB said it appealed after reviewing Hampton’s full written decision and the evidence.
The Lions had no involvement in the IRB’s decision to appeal the case, team spokesman Greg Thomas said today.
Second-rower Horwill, 28, said that the incident had been viewed from nine camera angles during the initial hearing and had delivered the “right decision,” adding that the IRB was entitled to appeal. It’s the first time the governing body challenged a ruling to clear a player.
“I’ve played more than 130 professional rugby games and never been cited once and never been to any judicial hearings,” Horwill added. “It was a complete accident. Unfortunately accidents happen in rugby, it’s a contact sport and there was no intent or malice on my end to do anything.”
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