Australia seeks review of IRB's appeal on James Horwill
Drawn-out saga left player 'in complete and utter mental disarray' says ARU chief
Wallabies officials are demanding a review of the legal process that left captain James Horwill "in complete and utter mental disarray", disrupting Australia's preparations for the series-deciding third test against the British & Irish Lions.
Australia Rugby Union (ARU) chief executive Bill Pulver accused the International Rugby Board (IRB) of overseeing a lengthy procedure that was at the least "problematic".
"I simply have a problem with the double-jeopardy concept of being tried twice for essentially the same issue," Pulver said yesterday. "I'll be writing the IRB - in fairness to the IRB they've operated well within the laws as defined. I just think it needs to be reviewed and I would like to see it changed."
On Tuesday Horwill was cleared of foul play for allegedly stamping on the head of Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones, which would have ruled him out of Saturday's series decider against the Lions in Sydney.
The skipper, who shed tears after last weekend's 16-15 win over the tourists, had already been cleared once by a judicial officer the day after losing the first test in Brisbane on June 22.
But he played in Melbourne under a cloud, with the IRB challenging his acquittal in an unprecedented appeal.
Pulver said he was "uncomfortable with the process around that judicial review", describing the lengthy period between the initial allegation and Horwill's ultimate acquittal as "unacceptable leading into a test match".
Independent appeal officer Graeme Mew dismissed the IRB challenge after a 2½-hour video-conference hearing from Toronto and nearly 12 hours of deliberation.
Canadian arbitrator Mew upheld the original decision, saying there had been "no misapprehension of law or principle" proven and no evidence that the [first] acquittal was unreasonable.
Mew said the IRB appeal had been appropriate to safeguard player welfare and protect rugby's image and reputation.
But Pulver said the "drawn-out saga" had left Horwill "in complete and utter mental disarray".
"Proof of that was the image of James on his knees at the end of the [second test] match," he said. "The process is inappropriate, and the trauma and anxiety it caused the player is completely unfair."
Horwill put on a brave face on Tuesday, saying: "I feel very vindicated by the way that it's gone."
He called both hearings "incredibly fair and thorough".
The ARU noted that the IRB had never before intervened to overturn a not-guilty verdict against a player.
Australia's Rugby Union Players' Association welcomed the ruling, saying it had been surprised and disappointed at the IRB's appeal, which it described as a "dangerous precedent" with questionable motives.
A unanimous vote at the IRB council a year ago gave the governing body the right to appeal against decisions made by disciplinary hearings.