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Wallabies keep big guns for World Cup

Mon, 06 May 2013 07:46
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Players have choices and a lot of factors come into it
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The re-signing of James Horwill by the Australian Rugby Union and the Queensland Reds is part of the process to retain key players for the 2015 World Cup.

Horwill's retention, which follows on from the re-signing of back row forward Scott Higginbotham last week, continues with the progress shoring up the Wallabies forward pack as the countdown to the next World Cup begins in earnest.

The Wallabies' Tri-Nations-winning captain of 2011, Horwill, has inked a new agreement which will see the second row forward extend his career in Australia by an additional two years - taking him through until the end of the 2015 World Cup.

"I'm happy to have my future resolved," Horwill said.

"It was always my intention to remain in Australia. I've still got a lot more that I want to achieve with both the Wallabies and the Queensland Reds."

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said retaining the likes of Horwill and Higginbotham sends an important signal to other off-contract players, with the pair both being part of the core of the current Test side.

"Players have choices and a lot of factors come into it," Deans said.

"But a playing career is a finite thing so commitments aren't made lightly.

"The key is that these guys see the opportunity ahead, see the progress that is being made in the game in Australia, and want to play their part in continuing to bring it forward."

First introduced to the Test arena against Fiji in 2007; Horwill approaches this year's Test schedule with 35 previous appearances to his name.

This tally would undoubtedly have been greater but for a dreadful run with injury which rubbed him out of both the 2010 and 2012 international seasons.

"Obviously it's been frustrating at times, but you have to take the bad with the good," Horwill said.

"The main thing is to focus on what's dead ahead – and that couldn't be more exciting. Playing the British & Irish Lions is a once in a lifetime opportunity and you can feel the excitement around the country: be it the players, the rugby community or the general public.

"It's coming up quickly now and you can really feel that in the intensity it has brought to Super Rugby this year, especially in the derby games. The competition just to make the squad is fierce, which is exactly as it should be.

"It bodes well for what is going to be the series of a lifetime, both for the Test players but also those players who feature against the Lions in the tour matches. You just have to look at the power in the touring squad they have named to see that."

Horwill, who turns 28 at the end of the month, has led his country on eight occasions; making his debut as leader during Australia's 25-20 win over New Zealand which secured the final Tri-Nations title two years ago.

His introduction to the Test captaincy came at his beloved Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, where he had earlier in the year led the Queensland Reds to a maiden Super Rugby title.

The popular Queenslander then led Australia to third at his maiden World Cup, but has not featured in the Wallaby jersey since the 24-18 win over Wales in Cardiff at the end of 2011, having been ruled out of last year on the eve of the Test season when he badly ruptured his hamstring.

The long road to recovery saw a delayed start to the Super Rugby season, but Horwill responded once he returned, confirming his leadership credentials as the Test season approaches.

Horwill is aiming to re-enter the Test arena back at Suncorp Stadium when the British & Irish Lions Test series kicks off on June 22.

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