Sunday 17 December 2017

Horwill expecting Aussies to produce backlash

Australia's James Horwill
Australia's James Horwill

Duncan Bech, Melbourne

Australia captain James Horwill insists the Wallabies will respond to a week of adversity by drawing on the national trait of delivering when the odds are stacked against them.

The hosts have been besieged by a succession of problems since losing the first Test in Brisbane 23-21, starting with an injury crisis that claimed three of their backline in Digby Ioane, Berrick Barnes and Pat McCabe.

An arrest warrant was then issued to Ioane for failing to attend a court appearance and little over 24 hours later James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale were photographed at 3.40am at a fast food restaurant.

Completing an eventful week was yesterday's announcement that the International Rugby Board has appealed the decision to clear Horwill of stamping on Alun-Wyn Jones, potentially ruling him out of the third Test.

The Wallabies are adamant that the setbacks have failed to disrupt preparations for tomorrow's second Test, which they must win to stay in series contention, and Horwill today sounded a note of defiance.

"Australians in general like to prove people wrong across the board," the 28-year-old said.

"If you look across any sporting code, some of the best performances are when the chips are down and people stand up when they weren't expected to.

"We want to win for everyone - for our country, the people who have played in the jersey before and the guys in this group.

"We're certainly determined, no matter what's happened. We are 1-0 down in the series. This is a must-win game to keep the series alive."

The IRB's decision to appeal the Horwill verdict - only the second time they have done so and the first against a 'not guilty' outcome - could yet have a significant impact on the series with the hearing to be held next week.

Replays show Horwill bringing his right boot down onto the head of Jones, who was lying at the bottom of a ruck.

The Queensland Reds forward insisted the camera angle was deceiving and that alternative views from some of the other eight angles presented in the four-hour disciplinary hearing last Sunday proved his lack of intent.

"I didn't know anything about any incident until I was told the next morning so I had no idea about anything that happened during the game," he said.

"There was no intent nor malice. I had no idea Alun was anywhere near my feet. That's what I'm sticking by.

"I've played 130 professional rugby games and have never been cited once, never attending any judicial hearing.

"It was a complete accident and unfortunately accidents happen in rugby. It's a contact sport.

"The other camera angles show that I was completely unaware of what was going on.

"Anything can be slowed down to make it look different. If you look at it from a number of angles you can see what happened."

A spokesman for the Lions today denied suggestions that they had approached the IRB to demand that they appeal the original decision.

While the Lions prevailed at the Suncorp Stadium, it was a flawed performance that has resulted in three unenforced changes being made for the second Test, among them Ben Youngs replacing Mike Phillips at scrum-half and Dan Lydiate picked ahead of Tom Croft at blindside flanker

The promotion of the sharper Youngs and tackling machine Lydiate to the starting XV is a nod to the genius of Will Genia, who views the selection of Youngs as a triumph of brain over brawn.

"Ben Youngs is more of an attacking player, someone who likes to attack around the ruck," Genia said.

"He scoots out and has the ability to put players through holes and hold up defenders to create space outside.

"Compared to Phillips he's dangerous in a different sense. I thought he played pretty well on the weekend. Mike's big and likes to take the line on, giving them an extra threat.

"Whereas Mike's like a ninth forward, Ben has a little more subtlety to his game and probably uses skill more than brute force."

Genia is also an admirer of Ireland-fly-half Jonathan Sexton, who played with authority against the Wallabies last weekend

"Jonathan brings a lot of composure to the game. He seems very decisive and thorough with his team-mates," he said.

"I remember one particular moment when he was having a chat to Sam Warburton and was getting stuck into him for not being where he was supposed to be.

"He brings that direct approach whereby he knows where he wants people to be. He takes on that director's role and does it very well. He has a great kicking game too."

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