The Queensland Reds appear set to recall exiled veteran James Horwill for next weekend’s clash against the Cheetahs in South Africa.
The former Wallabies skipper was an intriguing exclusion from Queensland’s 27-man squad for their two-week tour abroad, having only been issued a one-game suspension for his moment of madness against the Melbourne Rebels.
Horwill was shown his second red card of the season for striking Paul Alo-Emile with a swinging arm last weekend.
Suspended for the Reds’ 43-22 loss to the Bulls on Sunday morning (AEST) – which left them bottom of the overall Super Rugby standings – Horwill’s ban has now expired and coach Richard Graham said he would consult his coaching staff before making a final call on if he will join them.
But Graham clarified his decision to leave Horwill behind in Brisbane was not intended to be read as an act of additional punishment, saying the team’s capacity to train and prepare in South Africa would have been limited by bringing an ineligible player.
“Of course I was disappointed with him,” he said.
“I spoke to him but I didn’t have to speak at length or anything. He knew what he’d done.
“There is no bloke more disappointed or more gutted than himself.
“He’s played enough rugby to know he put the team under pressure.
“He’s bled for the joint, he cares passionately about the joint.”
The Reds could also regain the services of James O’Connor, who missed the Bulls defeat due to a calf strain.
Graham described O’Connor as a ’70-30′ proposition of facing the Cheetahs.
“The expectation is he will be right,” he said.
Graham said he was proud of Queensland’s nagging second-half performance against the Bulls, but admitted poor execution early on proved their ultimate undoing.
“The stuff we did in that period (after half-time) was excellent,”
“(But) you’re always judged, let’s not kid ourselves, on results.
“We talked about execution, making sure in those big moments that we win those and when we need our execution to be where we expect it, it’s got to be at that level.”