Australian union demands citing process review

Last updated 10:48 03/07/2013
James Horwill
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CHUFFED: James Horwill fronts the media after being cleared to play in the third test.

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The Australian Rugby Union is demanding a review of the judicial process that led to Wallabies captain James Horwill spending nine days in limbo before being cleared of foul play for a second time.

ARU chief executive Bill Pulver said he would write to the International Rugby Board and ask for a review of the rule that left Horwill in ''mental disarray'' at the end of a process in which the second-rower was cited for stamping, cleared of the allegation, retried for it and eventually exonerated again - all while preparing for and playing a crucial Test match against the British and Irish Lions.

While Horwill maintained he handled the pressure of the nine-day controversy as best as he could, Pulver said it was ''completely unfair'' that a player was made to answer the same charge twice.

''It was a drawn-out saga that left the Australian captain in complete and utter mental disarray,'' he said. ''Proof of that was the image of James on his knees at the end of the match [in Melbourne].

''The process is inappropriate and the trauma and anxiety it caused the player is completely unfair.''

Horwill expressed relief and a sense of vindication after learning he was free to play in the series decider in Sydney on Saturday.

He said he had not slept on Monday night after sitting through his second three-hour hearing on the allegation he stamped or trampled the head of Lions second-rower Alun Wyn Jones in the third minute of the first Test in Brisbane on June 22.

''I'm not going to deny it was difficult waiting and no one likes to wait,'' Horwill said.

''You like clarity and I guess the fact that it was unknown was probably the most difficult part. You just want to know and that's not only for my sake but for the team's sake as well.''

The IRB announced the appeal four days after its own judicial officer, Nigel Hampton, QC, found Horwill's action could not be ruled deliberate. Horwill was allowed to lead the Wallabies to victory in the cliffhanger second Test in Melbourne before fronting a second hearing, before Canada-based sports arbitrator Graeme Mew, in Sydney on Monday night. Mew took

almost 12 hours to affirm the decision of his colleague, finding there was ''sufficient evidence upon which a reasonable judicial officer could have reached the decision that was made'' and that it could not be said Hampton had been ''manifestly wrong or that the interests of justice otherwise required his decision be overturned''.

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The decision led to criticism from senior Australian administrators, including former ARU chairman and IRB executive committee member Peter McGrath, Rugby Union Players' Association chief executive Greg Harris and Pulver.

McGrath said the rule, implemented last year, that gave the IRB the power to appeal its own decision had complicated the role of a body that was trying to be both the administration and judiciary in international rugby.

''It just says to me that the IRB should stay out of the judicial process,'' McGrath said. ''It's a separation of powers, executive and the judiciary, and they've invested a lot of money, time and energy into the judicial process, so they should just leave it alone.''

Harris said the RUPA viewed the appeal as a risky precedent and would be writing to the international umbrella body for rugby players to raise the matter formally with the IRB.

''RUPA is adamant that this was a dangerous precedent by the IRB and that not only the RUPA membership but the broader rugby community in Australia were concerned about the motives behind the decision to refer the matter again,'' Harris said.

The Wallabies, meanwhile, could shelve plans for Horwill's second-row replacement and train on Tuesday afternoon in Sydney free from uncertainty, while Pulver lamented the disruption to a Test series otherwise characterised by goodwill.

''The IRB's first decision should have been the end of it - there should be no second bite at the cherry,'' he said. ''Australia has hosted one of the most successful tours of all time and yet there was a grenade lobbed in the middle of it that was completely unnecessary.''

- Sydney Morning Herald

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