Horwill to keep Reds reins
Horwill to keep Reds reinsSHARE
Despite being axed as Wallabies skipper, James Horwill will not reliquish captaincy of the Reds according to coach Richard Graham.
The experienced lock was replaced as Wallabies captain by the Brumbies' Ben Mowen ahead of Australia's year-end tour, and it proved to be a good call from national coach Ewen McKenzie as his team won their last four matches in Europe with Horwill finding some good form.
However, Graham, who has replaced McKenzie as Reds coach, believes that Horwill is still the man to lead the way when Super Rugby gets underway next year.
He said that Horwill's improved form in Europe was not down to having the burden of the captaincy lifted off him and made it clear that the big lock will be the man in charge next year.
"Horwill has captained the team very well. There is no reason in my mind to change the captaincy. I don't think necessarily taking the captaincy off him was the catalyst.
"James and Ewen would have discussed it and given great thought about it but it was fantastic to see him play well," he told AAP.
Another decision that paid off for McKenzie was making flyhalf Quade Cooper Wallabies vice captain, as he responded well to the responsibility and also found some good form in Europe.
Graham said that whilst Cooper will continue to play a leadership role with the Reds, he was not tempted to give him the captain's armband.
"Quade has been outstanding on this tour. He is confident and when he is you see the full array of skills that he has got – I think that makes us a better team.
"Quade has been a leader here for the last three or four years by the nature of his position," he said.
The Reds will return to their 'spiritual home' of Ballymore Stadium in February to face Australian rivals Melbourne Rebels in a Super Rugby trial match.
Graham said the fixture would provide key match experience for his team only a week out from the Super Rugby regular season.
"The match against the Rebels will be another key component of our preparation," Graham said.
"It will follow on from what should be a high-quality game against the Chiefs, in Toowoomba, and will be our last hit out before the Super Rugby season kicks off.
"It's exciting to be able to see elite rugby at Ballymore, the spiritual home of our game in Queensland," he added.
The trial against the Chiefs in Toowoomba the week prior, on February 8, kicks off at 6.30pm and includes a curtain raiser at 4.30pm, featuring the Darling Downs representative team.
The Reds' regular season starts February 22, with clashes on the road to the Brumbies and the Waratahs, before their first match at Suncorp Stadium against the Cheetahs on Friday March 7.