Relieved Horwill shifts focus to finale

Tue, 02 Jul 2013 17:15
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Wallaby captain James Horwill says he can now focus solely on Saturday’s Test after being cleared to play in the B&I Lions series decider.

Wallaby captain James Horwill says he can now focus solely on Saturday’s showdown after being cleared to play in the blockbuster British and Irish Lions series decider.

Horwill on Tuesday heard that he would not be banned for the decisive third Test after Independent Appeal Officer Graeme Mew declined to uphold an IRB Appeal brought against him after he was initially cleared of an alleged stamping incident against Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones in the opening Test in Brisbane.

The 28-year-old admitted to having a sleepless night after giving evidence for a second time on Monday and being forced to wait until the next day for the outcome.

"I was very relieved when I received the outcome at around 10.00am. I had no sleep during the night before, but I feel very vindicated by the way it has all gone," Horwill told lionsrugby.com.

"I would like to thank Mr Mew and Mr Hampton [the two Judiciary Officers] for hosting very fair and independent hearings. I'd also like to thank Mr Steve Cotterill, our legal representative, for assisting us in the hearing.

"Finally, I'd like to thank the public for their support. My family and my team have been overwhelmed by the support I have received. It's now time to get on with the football.

"The process is what it is and I can't complain. It has been very fair both times and I was confident I would be cleared because I knew what happened. But I'm still glad that the right result was reached in the end.

"I love what I do and it means a hell of a lot for me to represent my country. The opportunity to lead my country into arguably the biggest game in this country since the 2003 World Cup Final is very exciting.

"Other than not getting any sleep last night there has not been any disruption for me throughout the process. It is the reality of what we do - I have just had to get on with it."

With the series and the Tom Richards Trophy hanging in the balance - after the Lions won the first Test 23-21 and the Wallabies the second 16-15 at the weekend - Horwill said the side who make better use of their opportunities will most likely come out on top at ANZ Stadium.

"As you can tell by the first two Tests they have both been pretty epic struggles and there isn't much to separate the two teams. I can't see Saturday night being too much different," said Horwill.

"You have to take your opportunities because as you have seen in the first two games there aren't many. You have to be smart in the way you go about your footie. The team that arguably takes its chances and makes the most of the opportunities will more often than not end up on the winning side.

"You always hope it comes down to tries for the sake of the fans, but as you saw last weekend the Lions are very good at kicking. Halfpenny's radar has been very good so I think there will be a bit of toing and froing to begin with but then the fans will be able to see some running rugby."

England flank Lewis Moody, who toured with the Lions to New Zealand in 2005, called the outcome of Horwill's IRB hearing a farce.

"It doesn't surprise me because I think they always seem to get away with it when we're over here whenever we've been to New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, especially when we've done it with the Lions," Moody told Sky Sports.

"It just seems to be the trend. The IRB I don't think actually had the power to overrule it. They were just looking into the official and whether he had made the right decisions. So they couldn't change the decision I don't think. So it's all a bit of a farce."

Legendary Wallaby flyhalf Stephen Larkham, who played in the last Lions series on Australian soil 12 years ago, was also surprised by the ruling.

"It's very surprising. I've seen the incident. Obviously being referred to the IRB you'd imagine they were going to overturn the original ban, but it's a massive boost for Australian rugby," said Larkham.

"His leadership and what he contributes around the paddock. We just don't have that in our second and third-string second rowers. It is a massive boost going into this Test for us."

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