Coach Richard Graham appears to have dumped former Wallabies captain James Horwill for the Queensland Reds’ two-match tour to South Africa after he was sent off for the second time this season.
Horwill was an intriguing omission from Graham’s 27-man Reds squad named on Sunday for the trip to play the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday and the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein a week later.
Horwill copped a one-match suspension on Saturday after being red carded for striking Melbourne Rebels prop Paul Alo-Emile with a swinging arm in Friday night’s Super Rugby match in Melbourne.
The 20th minute sending off – which followed lock Horwill’s round one dismissal for a second yellow card against the Brumbies – proved costly as the 14-man Reds gave up a 12-3 lead to lose 23-15.
It was a self-inflicted problem the desperate Reds (one win, six losses) could ill afford.
No.8 Jake Schatz is out for a month after rupturing a tendon in his elbow.
And they have lost Wallabies playmaker Quade Cooper for another two months – a major setback for his World Cup hopes – after he suffered a fractured scapula in only his second match after missing the start of the season.
It means Graham may again be forced to switch star recruit James O’Connor to five eighth.
The one piece of good news for Graham is that lock and lineout specialist Rob Simmons is available for the first time since suffering shoulder nerve damage in the Wallabies’ European tour.
He’s set to replace Horwill for the match against the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.
While Horwill would be available for the second tour match against the Cheetahs, Graham made no mention of calling him over in the Reds’ squad announcement statement.
His place in the squad went to Tom Murday, who made his Reds debut earlier this year, as one of four locks with Simmons, Marco Kotze and Dave McDuling.
A Reds spokesman denied the decision not to take Horwill when the team flew out on Sunday amounted to disciplinary action but Graham’s explanation did little to clarify the matter.
“With such a short turnaround between Friday’s game and our trip to Johannesburg, it was important to make quick decisions around who we need in the squad – so we could get straight into uninterrupted preparation for next week’s clash against the Bulls,” said Graham.
“For that reason, I thought it was important to bring in cover for James Horwill for at least the first week of the tour as we need a full compliment of players to select from.”
James Tuttle was picked as a five eighth back up following Cooper’s injury and fellow development squad player Adam Korcyzk replaced Schatz.