McKenzie springs a surprise move - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

McKenzie springs a surprise move

By Jim Morton 03/02/2010 05:28:41 PM Comments (0)

Wallabies lock James Horwill will make a surprise back-row switch after Queensland coach Ewen McKenzie unveiled his No.6 experiment to beef up the Reds pack.

Horwill will play blind-side flanker for the first time in his life when the Reds meet the Western Force in Friday night's final Super 14 trial in Perth.

The Queensland captain returns from toe surgery for his first pre-season hit-out along with fellow Wallabies grand slam tourists Quade Cooper and Digby Ioane.

While the more versatile Cooper and Ioane were selected in their most likely backline positions, at five-eighth and outside centre respectively, Horwill's shift came from left field.

McKenzie admitted he'd pondered the experiment for many weeks and felt the 200cm second-rower had the mobility to handle the extra running.

"I think he's a fine athlete," said the new Reds coach.

"I've been really impressed with his athleticism and power and by putting him at No.6 it gives us a chance to get him more involved in the game.

"If he doesn't have such a workload at scrum time it gives him more opportunity to carry the ball and do other things.

"The reality is he's a couple of kilos lighter than Rocky Elsom so I don't think there's any physical reason."

The Super 14 media guide actually lists Horwill, at 115kg, 3kg heavier than Wallabies captain Elsom but McKenzie believes the 24-Test lock is suited to the back-row and is an outside chance to start there in the Super 14 opener against NSW.

"This is just an experiment - it might work well, it might not," he said.

"We'll see what happens, it certainly gives us some options with our lineout."

For his part, Horwill believes he'll handle the extra running, even though his toe injury curtailed pre-season fitness work.

"Whatever can be the best fit for our team I'm happy to play," he said.

The switch gives competing locks Adam Byrnes, Van Humphries and Rob Simmons extra time on Members Equity Stadium to audition for a starting second-row spot.

Ioane's selection in the centres has seen Melbourne Storm recruit Will Chambers picked in the Reds Academy side to play the Australian Barbarians on Saturday night to ensure he gets a full 80 minutes to help his rugby transition.

Queensland: Peter Hynes, Luke Morahan, Digby Ioane, Anthony Faingaa, Rod Davies, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Ezra Taylor, Daniel Braid, James Horwill (capt), Van Humphries, Adam Byrnes, Laurie Weeks, James Hanson, Greg Holmes. Res: Ben Daley, Sean Hardman, James Slipper, Rob Simmons, Scott Higginbotham, Richard Kingi, Ben Lucas, Morgan Turinui, Blair Connor.

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