Horwill stays focused after chaotic build-up to All Blacks crunch
Horwill has since had to deal with the fall-out from media reports about O’Connor engaging in a Paris punch-up with fellow backline youngsters Kurtley Beale and Quade Cooper during last year’s end of season tour, while training with snarling flanker and deposed captain Rocky Elsom breathing down his neck.
The towering 26-year-old lock has coped with bigger hurdles in his career – a serious knee injury that wiped out his 2010 season chief among them – but might have hoped for a few controversy-free days before his baptism of fire against the All Blacks. “It’s kept me on my toes,” Horwill said yesterday, in his only reference to the week’s dramas.
Horwill will march out on to Lang Park today for his first competitive match since the Super rugby final, where he hoisted the trophy after leading the Queensland Reds side to their first title over the All Black-laden Crusaders.
Already missing O’Connor, banned for his indiscipline, Horwill nearly lost midfield general Will Genia after the scrumhalf suffered two dizzying head-knocks from team mates at training in the space of three days.
Australia: K Beale, A Ashley-Cooper, A Fainga’a, P McCabe, D Ioane, Q Cooper, W Genia, R Samo, D Pocock, R Elsom, J Horwill (captain), D Vickerman, B Alexander, S Moore, S Kepu. Replacements: S Fainga’a, S Ma’afu, R Simmons, B McCalman, S Higginbotham, L Burgess, TBC.
New Zealand: M Muliaina, C Jane, C Smith, M Nonu, Z Guildford, D Carter, P Weepu, K Read, R McCaw (c), A Thomson, S Whitelock, B Thorn, O Franks, K Mealamu, T Woodcock. Replacements: A Hore, J Afoa, A Williams, V Vito, A Ellis, C Slade, I Toeava.