James Horwill cleared to play deciding test

JIM MORTON
Last updated 16:19 02/07/2013
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Injured captain Sam Warburton holds the series trophy after victory at ANZ Stadium.
James Horwill
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SERIAL STAMPER: James Horwill's first test incident was not the first time the Wallabies captain has been called out for stamping.

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A vindicated James Horwill has voiced his relief and excitement after the Wallabies captain was cleared to play in Saturday night's series decider against the British and Irish Lions.

Horwill found out at 10am (local time) on Tuesday during a weights session in preparation for the third test at Sydney's ANZ Stadium that Canadian Graeme Mew had declined to uphold an IRB appeal.

The 37-cap second-rower had been cleared of a first test rucking charge nine days ago in Melbourne but was made to face the music again after the IRB appealed his not guilty verdict.

But after over 12 hours of deliberating, following a two-and-a-half hour hearing on Monday night, Mew supported the original decision in a massive boost for Australia's hopes of retaining the Tom Richards Cup.

"It's huge," Horwill said. "I love what I do and it means a hell of a lot to me to represent my country and not only to represent it but to lead it in what is arguably the biggest game in this country since the Rugby World Cup final in 2003.

"I'm excited at that opportunity and now we can focus on the game, which is important.

"I feel very vindicated by the way it's gone."

There had been major criticism of the IRB's move to launch an appeal last Thursday but Horwill was loathe to take aim.

"The process is what it is but I have to say it was a very fair process both times," he said. "The hearings were very fair."

Despite failing to get any sleep on Monday night, Horwill denied he'd be negatively affected either mentally or physically for the decider.

Horwill was originally exonerated by New Zealand judicial officer Nigel Hampton last Sunday night after being cited for stamping on rival lock Alun Wyn Jones in the opening 23-21 loss at Suncorp Stadium.

Mew noted he would have had to establish there was a misapprehension of law by (Hampton) or manifestly unreasonable decision for the appeal to succeed.

"There was sufficient evidence upon which a reasonable judicial officer could have reached the decision that was made," Mew said.

"Accordingly, it could not be said that (he) was manifestly wrong or that the interests of justice otherwise required his decision be overturned."

Mew also stated the IRB appeal had been properly taken as part of its responsibilities to protect the image of the game and ensure player welfare.

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The sport's governing body said it supported Mew's decision.

"The protection of players from foul play, intentional or otherwise, is vital in upholding the values and image of rugby and to send a clear message to all levels of the game that such acts are unacceptable," the IRB said in a statement.

- AAP

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