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Hooker Horie staying a Rebel

Wed, 02 Jul 2014 07:10
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I want more Super Rugby game time
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Japanese international hooker Shota Horie has agreed to fresh terms with the Rebels, signing a one-year contract extension with the Melbourne-based side.

Horie, who was the first Japanese player to feature for an Australian Super Rugby team, joined the club for the 2013 season and will suit up for a third year in Melbourne next year.

The 28-year-old has 32 caps and six tries for Japan, and will be aiming to play in his second World Cup in England in 2015. He has played 17 times for the Rebels since moving to Melbourne, making 10 appearances in 2014 and scoring his first try for them in the bonus point loss against the two-time defending champion Chiefs in Hamilton.

Horie was pleased to see his stint in Super Rugby extended into a third season, and is looking forward to again challenging himself in the world's most competitive provincial rugby competition.

"I'm very happy to stay here in Melbourne," Horie said. "One month ago, we had a baby (Yoshino) and I had to decide whether to stay in Melbourne for another year or go back to Japan. My wife Yukari told me that if I want to stay as a Rebel, we can do that; the baby will be fine here.

"Super Rugby is a very difficult competition, and this year we haven't won enough games. I want to win more Super Rugby games at the Rebels, and I want more Super Rugby game time."

Rebels' coach Tony McGahan admits that he was in the dark a little regarding Shota's abilities before seeing him first-hand in February.

"I didn't really know a lot about Shota coming into the programme," McGahan said. "He started pre-season late after returning from Japan, and with him having limited playing time last season my knowledge wasn't great in regards to him.

"However we were really impressed with his condition when he came back from Japan in February; he was fit, keen and eager, and a really good student of the game. Shota continued to work hard while adjusting to a new programme which had changed a fair bit from the previous year, and then when the opportunity presented itself he was good enough to take it and actually had a really big influence on games; that's been fantastic from our perspective."

That respect is mutual; Horie admits McGahan has challenged him, but that he has improved as a result.

"Dumper (McGahan) is very hard on me, but I am learning a lot," Horie said. "Particularly at the breakdown and the contact area, the coach has been very good for me, and I am happy to keep working with him."

Despite the challenge of speaking English as a second language, Shota is well respected by teammates and the coaching staff alike in Melbourne.

"Shota's a very popular member of the group, not only through the way he plays but also through his personality and I think just his general consideration of others," McGahan explained. "He is always happy to be at work, and to get stuck in and get the job done; as a teammate you really appreciate those sorts of attributes.

"He is never too low, never too high; he's got a really consistent temperament when it comes to his training. He is always working hard to improve himself, and asking questions to get better. All of this combined certainly helps to make him a wonderful squad member, and also a valuable teammate."

Horie has a strong friendship with fellow Japanese international Male Sau, and has formed strong bonds with other members of the playing group. He's looking forward to continuing to live in a city he loves, and playing alongside good mates.

"I have some great friends here, particularly Male, Cruze and the other Polynesian guys, and I want to keep playing with them. Melbourne is very good; it's a big city, and it's really easy to get around on the tram. It will be easy for my wife and my baby to keep living here.

Horie will compete with Pat Leafa and a fit-again Tom Sexton for the starting hooker spot next season, after again returning to play in the Japanese Top League for champions Panasonic Wild Knights while Leafa and Sexton play in the National Rugby Championship (NRC), and McGahan is looking forward to the trio battling for a starting spot and continuing to bring the best out of each other.

"There's still a lot of rugby to go this season, and certainly Shota and Pat Leafa have got a great battle going on for the starting spot," McGahan said. "Tom Sexton coming back from injury will certainly provide us with a really competitive position, and a great opportunity to continue to improve those three players. Through their own competitive nature, they will improve each other, and that will only help put the club in a great position as three guys push each other to get the starting position next year."

Horie agrees, and is looking forward to finishing the Super Rugby competition on a high in a bid to put his best foot forward for the starting spot next year.

"There's a lot of competition for spots, and next year it will again be very hard, but I am excited," Horie said. "I am looking forward to next year and getting better than this year, but first we need a strong two weeks in South Africa to finish this season; these games will feel like a Test match."

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