Injury-free Queensland Reds skipper James Horwill says losing the Wallabies captaincy is a matter for the past and he’s primed for a big Super Rugby campaign.
Horwill opted for a treatment session with the Reds physio rather than sweating it out with his teammates on a muggy Brisbane morning on Tuesday in his return from an end-of-season break following the Wallabies’ tour of Europe in November.
The 28-year-old overcame having the national captaincy taken from him during that tour to finish an otherwise underwhelming 2013 on a high as the Wallabies ended their year with four straight wins in Europe.
Horwill says he’s ready to carry that form over to the Super Rugby stage for the Reds, in stark contrast to last year when he didn’t take to the field until March following an almost-year long lay-off due to a torn hamstring.
“It’s always nice to hit the ground running and do things in pre-season that I wasn’t able to do,” he said.
“I obviously hadn’t played for 10 or 11 months at this stage last year so you just lose that timing and so forth. It’s been good to have a break where I didn’t have any injury cloud over my head.
“I’m really keen to get stuck into it now.”
Horwill was one of several Reds players with the Wallabies in Europe including halfback Will Genia and mercurial five-eighth Quade Cooper.
He believes the way Australia ended their year can transfer across into the Reds camp as they prepare for their first campaign under new head coach Richard Graham.
“Guys can take confidence in the form. We had a number of guys that were on that tour that were playing some great rugby at the end of that tour,” he said.
“That’s the positive we can take, the guys that are coming back were playing good rugby a month ago and I know speaking to all of them we’ve had some good time off … that sort of confidence in the way we’re playing is good.”
Horwill said while it was only early days in his partnership with Graham following his elevation to the top job after Ewen McKenzie’s appointment as Wallabies coach, it was a case of so far, so good.
One element that Graham will have to contend with is managing Cooper as the playmaker combines his pre-season preparations with the continuation of his professional boxing career.
Cooper is set to fight as part of the undercard for Anthony Mundine’s bout in Brisbane on January 29, but Graham says he has no concerns the extra-curricular activity will hamper Cooper’s pre-season preparations.
“No, not at all, because rugby is his first priority,” he said.
“He knows his focus is here and everything he’s done previously has demonstrated that he understands that clearly.”