Former Wallabies skipper James Horwill was honeymooning in Mykonos, convinced his Test days were over when a shock call from Michael Cheika revived his international career.
Left shattered after his exclusion from last year’s World Cup squad, Horwill is back in green and gold and appears to be a good chance of a starting berth for the first Test against England on June 11 in Brisbane.
Horwill insists he never gave up hope, but said he was a “realist” who could read the writing on the wall – after solid campaigns from Australia’s locks at the World Cup, and following his move to English club Harlequins, his time as a Wallaby was probably done.
That feeling became entrenched when coach Michael Cheika advised earlier in the year that he was unlikely to call upon any European-based players for the June international window, prompting Horwill to book a belated honeymoon with his wife on the Greek island.
But things can change quickly in rugby, and soon Horwill’s phone was ringing with the call he thought he’d never take.
“You always have hope and want to play for your country, but I was a realist and understood it was probably time,” Horwill said.
“The guys at the World Cup played really well and deserved to be there, it was just a different opportunity and my focuses were with Harlequins.
“I’m just thrilled to be back and really looking forward to it.”
Horwill is one of only two overseas-based players in the 39-man Wallabies training squad, along with Sekope Kepu, while Leroy Houston and Taqele Naiyaravoro signed contracts with Super Rugby clubs to become immediately eligible for selection.
He has been in good form in the Premiership and his inside knowledge of English rugby, with six Harlequins teammates in Eddie Jones’ touring party, means he will provide more than just his on-field contribution.
“I’m new over there but they were quite down on what was going on and they got smashed from pillar to post in the press for their early World Cup exit,” Horwill said.
“They were down on confidence, there’s no doubting that. Eddie’s been able to install that confidence and belief in what they’re doing.”