AUSTRALIAN rugby chiefs have strongly criticised the International Rugby Board (IRB) for reopening the probe into captain James Horwill’s alleged stamp on British and Irish Lions forward Alun-Wyn Jones.
The IRB yesterday announced it was exercising its right to review the decision to find Horwill not guilty, after he was cited following the Lions’ 23-21 victory in Saturday’s first Test.
Horwill is free to skipper the hosts in tomorrow’s second Test in Melbourne as the IRB will not deliver its ruling until after the match, but the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) insist the row should not be rekindled at all.
“This is an unprecedented step taken by the IRB in what is the most important rugby event staged in Australia since the 2003 Rugby World Cup,” said ARU chief executive Bill Pulver.
“James Horwill was cleared of the stamping charge as per the IRB’s established judicial process. We are surprised and disappointed that the finding is now not only under question but deemed to be ‘erroneous’.
“In the midst of an extraordinarily successful series, the re-hearing process – not even taking into consideration the possible outcomes – has the potential to cause serious disruption to the Wallabies and the positive atmosphere surrounding the tour.”
The IRB said its duty of care to players left it “compelled to further examine potential acts of foul play”.
Lions head coach Warren Gatland has made five changes from last weekend, with England scrum-half Ben Youngs being preferred to Mike Phillips and joining elder brother Tom in the starting XV.
Ireland wing Tommy Bowe, having recovered from a broken hand, replaces Alex Cuthbert, while Wales flanker Dan Lydiate comes in for Tom Croft. Two widely anticipated changes see England pair Geoff Parling and Mako Vunipola take ths places of lock Paul O’Connell and prop Alex Corbisiero.
TEAMS: SECOND TEST
Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Christian Leali’ifano, Joe Tomane, James O’Connor, Will Genia; Benn Robinson, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, James Horwill (c), Kane Douglas, Ben Mowen, Michael Hooper, Wycliff Palu
Replacements: Saia Fainga’a, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Rob Simmons, Liam Gill, Nick Phipps, Rob Horne, Jesse Mogg
BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS
Leigh Halfpenny, Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll, Jonathan Davies, George North, Jonathan Sexton, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Geoff Parling, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (c), Jamie Heaslip
Replacements: Richard Hibbard, Ryan Grant, Dan Cole, Tom Croft, Sean O’Brien, Conor Murray, Owen Farrell, Alex Cuthbert