Horwill given captaincy as Australia name 31-man squad


James Horwill has been confirmed as the Australia captain for the upcoming Test series against the British and Irish Lions. 

Horwill, a lock forward, has won 35 caps for the Wallabies since 2007 however, has not played international rugby for almost two years due to a hamstring injury that saw him miss the entirety of the 2012 Test calendar.

Horwill’s selection as captain does not come as a great surprise to those who follow Australian rugby; indeed Horwill’s passion for all things Aussie was most clearly demonstrated in his impassioned support on the side-lines when watching his club Queensland Reds narrowly lose to the Lions at the weekend.

What will come as a surprise, however, will be the exclusion of the maverick Quade Cooper in the six further players added to the original Australian squad. 

Despite being regarded as one of the most talented players of the present crop Down Under, the Reds fly-half has not done enough to convince Australia head coach Robbie Deans that he has rid himself of the inconsistencies that has plagued him throughout his career. 

Deans has not been able to fully place his trust in a player that flits between the extraordinary to the ridiculous, with Cooper’s performance in the Reds Super rugby game two weeks ago perhaps justifying Deans’s decision, as the fly-half conceded two tries after his kicks were charged down twice before setting up a sublime try for his own team. 

The tight margins that will inevitably dominate a Lions test series has most probably been the undoing of the talented, but unreliable, fly-half.

The six men who were added to the original 25-man training squad, however, are wing Digby Ioane, centre Pat McCabe, prop Scott Sio, forwards Hugh McMeniman and Peter Kimlin and full-back Kurtley Beale. 

Alongside the omission of Cooper, it will be Beale’s inclusion will dominate the headlines due to the intense focus Beale’s private life has received following his suspension at the start of the year after Beale punched his two of his Melbourne Rebel team-mates, including his captain Gareth Delve. 

Beale has since received counselling for alcohol-related issues, however, and Deans believes the player is ready for the pressures of international rugby.

"We know what Kurtley is capable of in this arena," Deans said to BBC Sport. 

"He showed that as recently as last year's tour [to Europe] when he performed outstandingly and led the team from fly-half in adverse circumstances against many of the opposition players we now face again.

"His work last week during the first camp supported our contention that it was not too soon for him to get started again, from either a physical or a mental stand-point. His physical state is a testament both to how hard he has worked but also his desire to get started again."

Although Beale will not take long to catch up with the training given the fact that he has been training with the squad in an unofficial capacity the last couple of weeks, winger Ioane is unlikely to feature before the first Test on the 22nd June given his recent knee injury. 

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