BIG KEV COMES UP SHORT IN LINEOUTS
JAMES Horwill’s reliability has been ditched for the greater punch and lineout skill covered by Rugby World Cup-bound locks Kane Douglas, Dean Mumm, Rob Simmons, and Will Skelton.
“Big Kev” Horwill was the guttwisting omission from yesterday’s 31-man Wallabies squad because, as a former Wallabies skipper, he has had the greatest fall, having also missed selection for the 2007 Cup.
It has been a rollercoaster for Horwill. His World Cup stocks looked 50-50 at best in early June after a modest Super Rugby season with a dud Queensland Reds outfit but one with a dominant scrum.
He fought his way back into frontline contention with a rousing showing off the bench against South Africa last month.
He took coach Michael Cheika’s simple demands to heart … sensible aggression, hit rucks and mauls, do the basics well.
There was also a hint of an improved ball-carting game, which is so important to Cheika’s idea of bigman impact.
Horwill is desperately unlucky but Cheika has his reasons.
Lack of impact in ball-running compared to Skelton and Douglas, and inferior lineout work to Simmons and Mumm ultimately cost him a squad berth.
He broke only three tackles in 13 games for the Reds and did not rum- ble through any in his four Tests this season.
Being a minor ball-winning target at the lineout with three takes in this season’s Tests and muffing a lineout catch 5m from the All Blacks line in Auckland will have hurt him. They are the measurables. It is the immeasurable stability that the Wallabies are giving up at scrum time with Horwill’s starch that will be greatly missed.
If the Wallabies back-pedal in the scrum against the bull-necks from England, not having a 62-Test rock there will be a seriously dud call.
Skelton is a raw babe to the demands of Test scrummaging.
Mumm’s smashing try through five Argentinian tacklers and a good Test against the All Blacks ticked his World Cup dance card. Simmons is the best lock if he can ever piece lineout, running and hitting together.
Douglas has been picked on faith to step up to a higher level than his 15 Tests to date.
He has five weeks to hit top fitness and form for the big World Cup pool games.
He has leg drive, lineout acumen, smashes in tackles and always goes forward.
He’s the lock who has tipped out Horwill and the lock with the most to live up to.
Just do not expect Horwill and co in the train-on squad to buy they are a fingernail away from the real thing.
They will feel every bit like they are 17,000km from Twickenham.