Sean O'Brien free to play for Lions against New Zealand after citing dismissed
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 03/07/17 6:10am
Sean O'Brien is free to play in the British and Irish Lions' third Test against New Zealand on Saturday after his citing for dangerous play was dismissed.
The 30-year-old Irish flanker was cited for a swinging arm on All Blacks winger Waisake Naholo, but after a four hour hearing, the citing was thrown out and he will be free to play in the series decider at Eden Park.
The incident in question occurred in the 59th minute of Saturday's 24-21 Lions victory against New Zealand in Wellington, and no action was taken at the time by referee Jerome Garces, who did review the incident with his TMO.
Citing commissioner Scott Nowland deemed the offence "to have met the threshold for a red card" within the 12-hour window, however, and a judicial review was arranged for 8pm New Zealand time on Sunday, 9am UK and Irish time.
O'Brien denied he committed an offence under law 10.4(a) at the proceedings, and New Zealand Rugby confirmed on Sunday he had been cleared.
"British and Irish Lions player Sean O'Brien was cited by independent citing commissioner Scott Nowland under Law
10.4 (a) for striking All Blacks No. 14 in the second Test match played between the All Blacks and the British and Irish Lions on Saturday, 1 July 2017 at Westpac Stadium in Wellington," the NZ Rugby ruling read.
"Having conducted a detailed review of all the evidence available, including all video footage and additional evidence from the player and submissions from his legal representative Max Duthie, the independent judicial committee comprising Adam Casselden SC (chair), David Croft and John Langford dismissed the citing complaint."
O'Brien commented after the ruling: "Firstly, I hope Waisake [Naholo] is okay. I'd like to thank the panel for carefully considering the case."
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Lions coach Warren Gatland added: "We'd like to thank the panel for their professional and diligent approach. We are pleased with decision.
"Sean is a tough but fair player and we are pleased that the panel dismissed the citing."
The committee had earlier banned All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams for four weeks after he was shown a red card for a shoulder charge on Anthony Watson in the 25th minute of the match.
O'Brien has featured heavily in both Tests for the Lions so far, finishing one of the Lions' greatest ever scores in the first Test defeat and performing as one of the standout players in Saturday's second Test victory.
News of his availability will come as a huge boost to Gatland and his staff, with assistant coach Graham Rowntree having described him as 'outstanding' and the benchmark for the team's performanc earlier on Sunday.
"Right to the end of the game he is the barometer for us with his energy," Rowntree said. "His aggression and ball pressure, his tackling, his carrying. I think he has been outstanding."