Australia v New Zealand, Brisbane, August 27
Alexander: Horwill right man to lead Wallabies
August 25, 2011
Horwill succeeded Rocky Elsom as Wallabies skipper © Getty Images
Wallabies prop Ben Alexander is expecting "big things" from newly-appointed captain James Horwill, who returns to Suncorp Stadium for the first time this weekend since leading the Reds to the Super 15 title.
Stakes are high for the Saturday night clash, with World Cup momentum and Tri Nations glory on the line. But Horwill will have added incentive, with the opportunity to lift silverware at his home ground on the first night of his new job.
Returning to rugby this year after a season on the sidelines with a serious knee surgery, the big lock has enjoyed a remarkable run, leading his state to Super 15 glory and now completing the ascension with a chance to break in his Australian captaincy on home turf. Always one to seek out contact and set the benchmark in work-rate, Alexander expects Horwill to lift further still when he runs out in front of family and friends and another fanatical sell-out crowd.
"Kevvie is always a follow-me kind of guy. He's always in the game, talking, firing blokes up and leading by example even when he wasn't captain, so expect a big performance from him," said Alexander. "It's a pretty special moment for him. First Test as captain in his home state, his home stadium, in front of all his friends and family, and fresh off the last time he played there, which I think was a pretty memorable night for him."
With ten Queensland players in the Wallabies 30-man squad, and Horwill running the show with deputy Will Genia, there is a distinctly Reds feel about camp. The influence of their Super 15 success on the national side had been the topic of discussion and speculation on both sides of the Tasman and Alexander spoke of the confidence it had bred amongst the entire squad.
"We're not holding onto it, it's a Wallabies factor. The Reds blokes, they're taking in the confidence in the way they play, which they've earned and worked hard to gather through the year," he said. "They're just bringing it, and the way they carry themselves - James Horwill, Quadey (Cooper) and Will Genia - with that confidence that they've built from playing so well through the year - that rubs off on blokes."
"It's not that we're hanging onto it, it just happens. You can't help it when blokes are coming in confident, full of beans from winning the Super Rugby title."
Although Australia have not beaten New Zealand at Suncorp since its refurbishment, the Wallabies, and not just the Reds, are expecting to take some home ground advantage.
"I love playing there. I've never lost there. The Reds boys have really turned it into a fortress. They beat the Crusaders there the last three times they've played them there," said Alexander. "The Queensland rugby community have really embraced rugby in general, especially the Reds, with their success, and hopefully they'll get behind the Wallabies and the rest of us interstate blokes and give us a bit of a lift that the rest of us haven't been able to play in front of unless we play at Suncorp."
© ESPN EMEA Ltd
We bring you our pick of the best pictures from around the world in the last seven days with the battle for Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup glory taking centre stage
"If you listen carefully you should be able to hear them mining the granite for the statue of a certain Jonny Wilkinson" Graham Jenkins reports from the Heineken Cup Final
Quade Cooper's defence is better than it was 12 months ago and Robbie Deans has erred in omitting him from the core Wallabies squad to play the Lions, Greg Growden writes
"People on the outside think unfounded thoughts on Toulon." Tom Hamilton talks to RCT lock Nick Kennedy ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup final against Clermont