Australia v British & Irish Lions, Sydney, July 6
Relieved Horwill sets sights on Lions
July 2, 2013
James Horwill will lead Australia out against the Lions on Saturday © Getty Images
Australia skipper James Horwill is adamant he is fully focused on Saturday's third Test against the British & Irish Lions and was left relieved after he was cleared for the second time of stamping on Alun-Wyn Jones.
Independent Appeal Officer Graeme Mew, from Canada, this morning declined to uphold an IRB Appeal brought against Horwill after he was cleared of a foul play charge at a previous judicial hearing.
The Wallabies' second row was cited in the wake of his side's first Test defeat in Brisbane and was found not guilty at an initial hearing but the International Rugby Board took the unprecedented and controversial step of appealing the decision and ordering a fresh investigation.
Horwill was cleared to play on and steered Australia to victory in Saturday's second Test clash in Melbourne but had to face a fresh hearing in Sydney on Monday night. However Mew deemed Nigel Hampton QC to have made the correct decision in the original hearing allowing Horwill to face the Lions in the all-important third Test on Saturday.
"I'd like to thank both Mr Mew and Mr Hampton for hosting very fair and independent hearings," Horwill told the press on Tuesday. "Also I'd like to thank Steve Cottrell our legal representation for assisting us in the hearing last night. Finally I'd like to thank the public for their support, my family and the team have been overwhelmed by the support. And now it's time to get on with football."
Horwill revealed he had not slept on Monday night following the hearing but he will now focus on leading out the Wallabies on Saturday. Horwill added: "I love what I do and it means a hell of a lot to represent my country and not only to represent but the opportunity to lead in what is probably the biggest game in this country since the 2003 World Cup final. So I'm very excited and now we can focus the game and that's what it's important."
Coach Robbie Deans admitted he was planning for life without his skipper if the appeal went against them, but he was quick to highlight his captain's qualities on Tuesday. "He's a very forthright man, a man of high integrity and his ethics are good," Deans said of Horwill. "His work ethic is huge, he will play himself until he can't play anymore and for a players' perspective, that's what they want alongside you."
With everything on the line going into Saturday, Deans' side are now going out to emulate the crop of 2001 and secure the series despite losing the first Test against the Lions. He admitted the last week has been the "toughest" of his career, but he is fully focused on the match in Sydney.
"It hasn't been straightforward, it's been demanding in every way both on and off the field. So if we are able to work ourselves into that position then that'll warrant a little bit of satisfaction and reflection. We've got a lot to do, we have a lot of respect for these blokes. They don't give you anything, we have to earn it in every way."
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