Horwill to return for Reds but Gill in doubt
March 18, 2013
James Horwill is expected play his first match for the Reds since injury against the Brumbies in early 2012 © Getty Images
Queensland Reds have Wallabies skipper James Horwill back but could lose "freakish" flanker Liam Gill for Saturday night's Super Rugby clash with the Bulls.
Hurting from their disappointing 19-12 loss to Western Force, the Reds are holding their breaths after Gill underwent knee scans on a suspected medial ligament injury on Monday afternoon.
McKenzie expects Horwill to be cleared for a no-holds-barred 40-minute return in his first match in almost 10 months.
"This type of game is set up for a captain's knock," McKenzie said. "Get out there and get stuck in and impose himself physically and that's what we need up front. It pretty much suits his playing style."
The 200cm lock had been three days away from making his return from hamstring surgery in the final trial of the pre-season against the Chiefs six weeks ago when a teammate landed on his ankle in a training mishap.
"I'd like to think I've had my quota of injuries but the rugby gods have their weird and wonderful ways of making life difficult for you," Horwill said. "It's certainly been a testing few months but I hope that's behind me now."
Gill has been arguably the form Australian player in the first five rounds of the competition to be pushing Michael Hooper hard as David Pocock's Test replacement at openside flanker. Losing him against the big Bulls pack, who the Reds have traditionally tried to run off their feet at Suncorp Stadium, would be a huge blow.
Reds coaching boss Ewen McKenzie did not believe the injury was "sinister" after he played out all 80 minutes against the Force, but isn't prepared to risk further injury.
"He's obviously an important asset for us and we do the right thing by him," McKenzie said. "He's been in outstanding form for us but that doesn't mean we want to run him into the ground either."
Although both Pocock (knee) and Hooper were rated ahead of the 20-year-old at the start of the season, McKenzie would have him in the No.7 Wallabies jersey against the British and Irish Lions.
"He's effective in every game he plays and is in everything - he's a freakish player," McKenzie said. "His work-rate is phenomenal in every game in both attack and defence."
If Gill is ruled out, Jake Schatz would likely move from No.8 to No.7 as Queensland's back-up openside Beau Robinson (ankle) is also sidelined.
Reserve back-rower Radike Samo is also in doubt with a knee injury which could open the way for youngster Jarrad Butler to make his run-out starting debut.
McKenzie said Will Genia was likely to get an hour of playing time at halfback while suspended winger Digby Ioane was available to return.
Western Force thoroughly deserved their victory against Queensland Reds (video available only in Australia)