Horwill backs coach's call on O'Connor
September 21, 2013
James Horwill says the team environment must come first © Getty Images
Wallabies captain James Horwill fully supports the decision of coach Ewen McKenzie to stand down wayward back James O'Connor from the challenging Rugby Championship matches in South Africa and Argentina.
McKenzie made the decision on Friday after reviewing an incident in Perth last Sunday when an allegedly intoxicated O'Connor was prevented from boarding a plane. McKenzie, who also took into account other incidents in O'Connor's Wallabies career, decided the 23 year-old back's behaviour last weekend was unacceptable and that it needed to change significantly.
He didn't consult any players before making the decision, but Horwill made it clear the coach had the players' backing.
"I fully support Ewen's decision and I guess it's for the best of the team," Horwill told AAP. "That's what we're about; the team comes first in these situations."
Horwill hasn't had the chance to talk to O'Connor since he had been stood down.
"He's had a bit of a whirlwind few days with what's going on and I'll speak to him in due time," Horwill said. "But it's up to him to make his behavioural changes, there are not many people that can do that for you. You've got to understand where your priorities lie and that's where he's at at the moment."
James O'Connor's Wallabies future is shrouded in uncertainty
Horwill said he hoped O'Connor would be able to turn things around.
"He's got to make that realisation and understand what's important to him and what he wants to do with his rugby going forward," Horwill said. "Hopefully it is a moment where he understands that he might need to change something to get the best out of himself."
Lock Horwill is confident he will be fit for next weekend's clash with South Africa in Cape Town after missing the last two Tests with a hamstring strain.
"The hamstring feels good, so I just need to do team based stuff, set-piece stuff," Horwill said. "I've still got that to tick off but at this stage, I can't see any reason why there would be any problems."
Horwill stressed it was essential for Australia to build on last weekend's one-point win over Argentina.
"We obviously didn't play our best rugby and we're happy to admit that," Horwill said. "But we need to build from that and we can't go backwards from where we are."
He said Australia needed to be better at the breakdown against a Springboks outfit that thrashed them 38-12 in Brisbane earlier this month.