British and Irish Lions prop Cian Healy was cleared of biting an opponent in the team’s opening match on its rugby tour of Australia and is available for selection if he recovers from an ankle injury.
Healy attended a judicial hearing in Brisbane today, and Judicial Officer Nigel Hampton found insufficient evidence to support the allegation that Healy bit Western Force scrum-half Brett Sheehan on the arm during the Lions’ 69-17 win in Perth two days ago, the Australian Rugby Union said.
“There is no conclusive video evidence of the incident and post-match it was not possible to distinguish any discernible bite marks outside of the regular marks usually found following a rugby match,” Hampton said in his findings. “I cannot find proven on the balance of probabilities that there was a deliberate bite here.”
Hampton determined that during a tackle in the 17th minute, Sheehan’s arm may have come in contact with Healy’s mouth and due to the pressure of the tackle it is likely that unavoidable contact between Healy’s mouth and teeth and Sheehan’s arm occurred. Healy, 25, had faced a minimum 12-week ban had he been found guilty of a deliberate bite.
Match citing officer, Freek Burger of South Africa, had asked Sheehan to provide him with a statement after he made the biting allegation to referee Glen Jackson on the pitch. The game was held up while the television match official reviewed replays to find evidence of any alleged offense, though the game officials took no action following the review.
“I am very relieved that the hearing has cleared me of such an allegation,” Healy said in comments distributed by the Lions. “I always maintained that nothing happened and that I had done nothing illegal. The opposition player’s arm hit me. It is as simple as that. I am glad that it is all over.”
Ireland prop Healy was later carried off on a cart in the match after damaging ankle ligaments when he twisted his leg in a tackle. His status for the remainder of the tour isn’t known.
The Lions, who face the Queensland Reds in Brisbane tomorrow in the second of nine games in Australia, called England prop Alex Corbisiero into their squad as cover.
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