If I were Alun Wyn Jones, or indeed any member of the British & Irish Lions party, I would be furious today.
For those that missed it, the IRB have announced that they will be contesting the decision to clear James Horwill, the Australian captain, of stamping on Alun Wyn Jones in the first Test. Footage appeared to show him stamping on the players face.
On the face of it, it seems like a sensible decision. Why then would I be furious?
The matter will no be dealt with until after the second Test.
The only reasoning for this that I can see is that they obviously do not want to have an impact on the outcome of the match. That is obviously a good thing, however they are missing a key point â€“ if he is found guilty then by waiting until after the match they will have had an impact on its outcome.
It is an absolute shambles, the like of which the governing bodies of sports across the globe seem to be adept at creating. There is absolutely no logical reason for it to be held after the game.
Here is a hypothetical scenario:
With five minutes to go the scores are level and the Lions have a lineout on the Australian 5 metre line, a try will probably secure them the series.
However James Horwill steals the lineout and the Wallabies proceed to march downfield into the Lions 22. They put a few phases of play together before Horwill goes driving over to score a brilliant try, securing victory for Australia and taking the series to a third Test.
On Monday at the IRB appeal against the Horwill ruling, he is found to have been guilty of stamping on Alun Wyn Jones in the first Test and is given a four-week ban.
Utter outrage then ensues.
Here is a second hypothetical scenario:
The IRB appeal against the Horwill ruling takes place tomorrow. He is found guilty, which is inconvenient for the Wallabies as they have to make a late change, but they accept that this was the risk Horwill took when he stamped.
The IRB appeal against the Horwill ruling takes place tomorrow. He is found not guilty. The case is over.
In the second scenario, regardless of the verdict, the worst thing that can happen is that the IRB get a bit of light hearted stick for wasting everybodyâ€™s time, hardly something that they need to worry about.
It is utterly illogical that the case should be heard after the Test and not before and makes a mockery of the fact that they are even appealing it at all. It seems a cowardly decision, designed so that they look as though they are doing the right thing but in reality trying to avoid creating any headlines before such a big game.
The ARU have of course expressed their dismay at the IRBâ€™s decision to step in on this occasion, they have had the power to do so since June 2012 but have never done so for a not guilty verdict, with a statement by chief executive Bill Pulver saying:
“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.â€
“While we respect the right of the IRB to intervene, we also respect the knowledge and experience of appointed – and independent – judicial officers, and their expertise to consider evidence and reach sound findings.â€
“James Horwill was cleared of the stamping charge as per the IRB’s established judicial process. We are surprised and disappointed that the finding of Mr Hampton is now not only under question but deemed to be ‘erroneous’.â€
“In the midst of an extraordinarily successful series that has been 12 years in the making, the re-hearing process – not even taking into consideration the possible outcomes – has the potential to cause serious disruption to the Qantas Wallabies and the positive atmosphere surrounding the tour.â€
“ARU in no way condones foul play. However, the process was followed according to IRB regulations and the decision of an independent judicial officer handed down. What has occurred subsequently is without precedent.”
Of course there is an abject failure by the ARU to recognise that as the IRB has only had the power to intervene for a year precedents are unlikely to have been established.
I can understand their frustration though, it is an unusual move and it would be frustrating for any Union if this scenario happened to them.
However more importantly the decision by the IRB not to act before the second Test makes a complete mockery of the decision to act at all.