Horwill under pressure to keep spot

Date published: November 5 2013

Deposed Wallabies captain James Horwill is battling to keep his place in the starting XV as Rob Simmons is set to return from injury.

Deposed Wallabies captain James Horwill is under pressure to keep his place in the starting XV as fellow lock Rob Simmons is set to return from injury.

Horwill is battling to hold onto his place for Saturday's clash with Italy in Turin after Australia's coach Ewen McKenzie warned his players that none of them could feel settled due to their poor Test record this year.

The Wallabies have won just three of their 11 Tests in 2013.

Horwill was replaced as captain by Ben Mowen for last weekend's 20-13 loss to England and he responded by producing an improved second-row display at Twickenham.

But Simmons is set to return to action after overcoming his knee problem in training. Simmons' form and importance as line-out caller, means Horwill and Sitaleki Timani are competing to start with him.

Timani battled on the slippery Twickenham surface but his previous impact off the bench had put him ahead of the former skipper before Simmons' injury ensured they both started against England.

McKenzie admitted he got the desired outcome – a more energetic showing by Horwill – against England, but not the result.

He revealed little about plans for his starting XV as well as choice of captain for the clash with Italy but Ben Mowen is expected to stay as leader, although he is set to move from number eight to blindside flanker after Scott Fardy was ruled out due to concussion.

“I'm open-minded about leadership and team selections,” McKenzie told AAP.

“I'm not going to make it comfortable until we start getting outcomes.

“I'm not committed to anything. I don't think, given our circumstance that we can say anything is locked in.

“At this stage, with four Tests left and where we've been, no one can feel settled.”

McKenzie has already shown this year that no player is assured of their positions, after dropping world-class scrum-half Will Genia during the Rugby Championship.