Gregor Paul 's Opinion

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Horwill's 'not guilty' is a bad joke

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Australian Captain James Horwill. Photo / NZH
Australian Captain James Horwill. Photo / NZH

The least funny joke in rugby just got unfunnier. We all stopped laughing about the judicial system some time ago and now, following the decision by the IRB to appeal Wallaby captain's James Horwill's not guilty verdict, anyone who cares about the game might have been reduced to tears.

It's not the appeal that is farcical - it is absolutely justified. But unfortunately it serves to do two things: firstly, it highlights just how bad the initial decision by Nigel Hampton QC was. Hampton, a New Zealander, bought this incredibly lame, vague story that Horwill was nudged by some mysterious force that propelled his boot in the direction of Alun Wyn Jones' head. 'Honest guv,' claimed Horwill, he was trying to drive forward - despite the video evidence clearly showing him lifting just one leg, straight up in the air and then banging it down on Wyn Jones' head.

Hampton said he couldn't find evidence of Horwill being reckless - the giant gash perhaps on Wyn Jones' face? No matter what Horwill's true intentions, any player lifting his leg straight up with a 90 degree bend at the knee and them banging it down...further explanation is required.

The second problem with the appeal is that it gives off a bad vibe: the IRB appointed Hampton as the judicial officer for the first test and now they don't like his findings. As the ruling body they can appoint the judiciary, guide the judiciary and then effectively fire the judiciary and hand the case to a different one that they might feel are more likely to deliver the outcome they want.

On top of that, this whole process takes so long that Horwill will still line up and captain the Wallabies tomorrow night. What a bad joke - that won't get any funnier as it is likely that if Horwill is found guilty next week, he'll most likely appeal and given the glacial speed of the IRB, who would bet against Horwill being on the field for the third test?

The thing about this test series is that it hasn't and doesn't need a story line like this to be compelling. The plot is thick enough, good enough already and this Horwill business doesn't add to the mix - it merely reminds everyone that almost 20 years into the professional age, rugby is still owned and and run by a tight group of former public schoolboys who don't like to let work get in the way of their gin swilling.

Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer. He has written several books on rugby including the Reign of King Henry, Black Obsession and For the Love of the Game.

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