British & Irish Lions flanker Sean O’Brien has been cleared to play the series deciding Test against the All Blacks at Eden Park next Saturday.
O’Brien faced a lengthy disciplinary hearing in Wellington on Sunday for a tackle on Waisake Naholo in the Lions’ 24-21 second Test triumph in Wellington.
The incident occurred in the 59th minute as All Blacks winger Naholo returned a Lions restart. Elliot Daly was first to make contact with Naholo in defence before O’Brien came through to make a tackle where his right arm collected Naholo in the side of the head.
Naholo left the field moments later for a head injury assessment which he subsequently failed.
No penalty was given for the incident at the time, but it was referred to the citing commissioner following the game.
O’Brien denied he committed an offence during a three-man judicial hearing, where the citing complaint was dismissed, the New Zealand Rugby Union announced.
Lions flanker Sean O’Brien arrives for his judicial hearing in Wellington. Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s hearing, Lions assistant coach Graham Rowntree paid O’Brien a glowing compliment. “Sean had an outstanding game carrying the ball for us on Saturday,” Rowntree said.
“He’s the barometer of our energy and aggression in the game; his ball pressure, his tackling, his carrying. He’s been outstanding.”
In a response to the hearing issued by the Lions, O’Brien said: “Firstly, I hope Waisake is OK. I would like to thank the panel for carefully considering the case, and I am looking forward to rejoining the whole squad to prepare for the final Test.”
Coach Warren Gatland added: “We would like to thank the panel for their professional and diligent approach.
“Sean is a tough but fair player, and we are pleased that the panel dismissed the citing.”
Meanwhile, All Blacks inside centre Sonny Bill Williams copped a four week ban for his no arms tackle on Anthony Watson that saw him receive a red card.
The All Blacks have called up Malakai Fekitoa as midfield cover for the third Test at Eden Park.
The Press Association have contributed to this report.
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