National Rugby Championship
Horwill and fringe Wallabies look to press Test claim
August 26, 2014
James Horwill is looking to regain a Test berth © Getty Images

James Horwill will lead the charge of Wallabies auditioning this weekend for a Test recall through the inaugural National Rugby Championship (NRC).

Horwill is training with his NRC team, Brisbane City, in preparation to play his first match in seven weeks to stake a claim for Australia's Rugby Championship fixture with South Africa on Saturday week, and the Queensland Reds captain has a serious chance of reclaiming a starting berth against the Springboks in Perth after the humbling 51-20 defeat by New Zealand.

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has admitted he's looking closely at a range of selection changes, and he will run the rule over a number of hungry squad-members in NRC action this weekend. Horwill could be among up to 10 current Wallabies to show their wares after four fringe players - Christian Leali'ifano, Peter Betham, Tom English and Paddy Ryan - played in the opening round last weekend.

Christian Leali'ifano hopes also to press his claim with Canberra Vikings © Getty Images

Perth Spirit host Brisbane City on Sunday, after the Wallabies squad arrives in Western Australia, and McKenzie and his fellow selectors will take the chance also to watch Ben McCalman and Matt Hodgson in an intriguing battle with 16-Test flanker Liam Gill.

"I think everyone has got a point to prove," Gill said. "Both teams want more players in the Wallabies squad and both have a handful of players who will really want to step up to make that [team]."

McKenzie may yet release bench players such as lock Will Skelton and back-rower Scott Higginbotham, who have played less than one half of rugby in the two Bledisloe games, but hookers James Hanson and Saia Fainga'a, rated fourth and sixth in the country this year, will almost certainly be rested due to the injury crisis that has sidelined Stephen Moore, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Nathan Charles and Tolu Latu.

Hopes of Brumbies wingers Joe Tomane and Henry Speight returning from the hamstring issues in the NRC this weekend have faded, however. Tomane remains an outside chance to play the Springboks, but Speight and Will Genia, who has an ankle problem, are more likely for the Wallabies trip to South Africa and Argentina in September.


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