Australia Wants Rugby Governing Body to Review Appeal Process

The Australian Rugby Union wants the sport’s governing body to review the appeals process that placed Wallabies captain James Horwill in selection limbo before the series-deciding Test against the British and Irish Lions.

Horwill was yesterday cleared for the second time of allegedly stamping on the head of Lions lock Alun Jones in the June 22 opener, freeing him to play in the July 6 decider in Sydney. The International Rugby Board last week appealed against an initial ruling to exonerate Horwill.

ARU Chief Executive Officer Bill Pulver today described the process as “problematic,” saying it was unfair on Horwill that the stamping charge had lingered until four days before the final game of the best-of-three contest. Horwill said yesterday he couldn’t sleep on Monday night while the independent arbitrator overseeing the IRB’s appeal deliberated.

“If you think of a 15-day lapsed period between the first Test and the third Test, inside that there was an extended period of uncertainty created by that review process,” Pulver said at a news conference. “I’m not comfortable with that. I plan to discuss that with the International Rugby Board.”

Horwill, who shed tears after Australia’s 16-15 win against the Lions in Melbourne four days ago, would have missed the decider had Toronto-based arbitrator Graeme Mew not rejected the IRB’s appeal against the June 23 decision to acquit him.

Mew announced his findings yesterday following a 2 1/2 hour hearing conducted via videoconference and almost 12 hours of deliberation. He concluded that IRB-appointed judicial officer Nigel Hampton of New Zealand had not made any errors of law or principle in his initial ruling.

‘Double Jeopardy’

The Dublin-based IRB said in a statement that it accepted Mew’s decision, adding that it “took the right approach to further examine the case and subsequently lodge an appeal in the interests of player welfare.” It was the first time the governing body challenged a decision to clear a player.

Pulver said the matter should have ended when Hampton found that Horwill hadn’t recklessly or deliberately stamped on Wyn Jones in the third minute of the first Test in Brisbane.

“I simply have a problem with the double jeopardy concept of being tried twice for essentially the same issue,” Pulver added. “I’ll be writing to the IRB. In fairness to the IRB they’ve operated within the law as defined. I just think it needs to be reviewed and I would like to see it changed.”

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