Horwill hits back at Deans’ criticism

Date published: October 3 2014

Wallabies lock James Horwill has slammed Robbie Deans’ claims about his behaviour after last year’s series loss to the Lions.

Wallabies lock James Horwill has hit back at criticism from former coach Robbie Deans about his behaviour after last year’s series loss to the British and Irish Lions.

Dean’ autobiography Red, Black and Gold, was released recently and in it – and subsequent promotional interviews – he mentions how disappointed he was about his last days as Wallabies coach.

He also points out the attitude of unnamed senior players at the team meeting most knew would be his last, after their 41-16 defeat to the Lions in the series’ third Test in Sydney.

“What probably summed it all up was the contribution of the leadership to that meeting,” Deans wrote in his book.

“The only thing that they offered was to ask whether there would be cab charges available to cover the cost of transport from the airport to their homes!”

Horwill, who was the Wallabies captain during the series and tore a calf muscle in that final Test, said he has not read Deans’ book but disagreed with the claim that team members were unconcerned just a day after their series loss.

“I take it a bit personally when people say I don’t care about playing for my country,” he told Rugby Heaven.

“I played that game with a torn calf and I couldn’t hardly run. If you’re suggesting that I didn’t care about playing that game or losing that game, I take that personally, myself.”

“It’s disappointing that individually you get blamed, but that’s part of footy – you live with what you’ve done.”

In his book, Deans also confirmed his forwards coach Andrew Blades’ comments that players and the rest of the squad were distracted by secret meetings about his role before the third Test.

Horwill, who will make his first run-on appearance for the Wallabies since June when they face the Pumas in Mendoza this weekend, denied having any knowledge of moves by players in the Test squad to have Deans removed from his position.

“I don’t know about that, not to my knowledge, we were focused on playing, and what happened afterwards happened,” he added.

“That was not our doing.

“I never met with Bill Pulver (Australian Rugby Union CEO) about anything to do with the Wallabies,” he said.

“That’s the way it is. That’s not my decision. that’s not what I did. That’s for the powers-to-be to do.”

Deans also accused his former players of “vanishing” in the second half of the series decider, against the Lions, and wrote that he would have withdrawn Horwill from the match if he had he known the lock had torn his calf two days before the Test.

Blades, who is still part of the Wallabies set-up as set-piece coach under Ewen McKenzie, revealed late last year that Horwill’s injury hurt the Wallabies’s scrum, which was demolished by the Lions.

“He [Horwill] couldn’t keep his foot on the ground so he was trying his guts out but it left the tight-head in a bad situation,” said Blades.

“You want him to play because it’s the biggest game of his career but in hindsight you either move him to the other side or… whatever. They were able to get away with things. We knew what they were going to do but we weren’t good enough to stop that.”

Horwill – who in the run-up to the decider was cleared after a being cited for an alleged stamp on Alun-Wyn Jones during the second Test – admitted that, in retrospect, he questioned his decision to play.

“We really didn’t know the severity until the warm up and looking back, maybe (I shouldn’t have),” he said.

“What I’d been through earlier that week, or the week before, I was probably pretty stubborn to the fact that I wasn’t going to let a tiny little calf injury stop me from playing in what I thought was probably the biggest game of rugby played in Australia in a long, long time.

“It would have felt like it had all been for nothing, all the effort that we’d put in.”