James Horwill does not fear James O'Connor
July 2, 2014
James Horwill (right) says the Reds' recruitment team will make the right decisions © Getty Images
James Horwill has no reservations about Queensland Reds re-opening the door for Wallabies exile James O'Connor to return home next season, saying the recruitment team will ensure the back heads to Ballymore for the right reasons - if he heads there at all.
Queensland Rugby Union chief executive Jim Carmichael refuses to confirm or deny reports that O'Connor has signed a two-year deal, waiting instead until the end of their failed Super Rugby campaign before revealing the bulk of the 2015 squad.
Reds coach Richard Graham also has declined this week to confirm the speculation, but for six weeks the Gold Coast-raised O'Connor has appeared certain to head home from Europe to play on the wing for Queensland and push for Rugby World Cup selection.
Horwill, Australia's Test captain when O'Connor ran off the rails between 2011 and 2013, has been front and centre of a strong Reds culture for the past five years, and many fans have expressed concerns about the impact O'Connor could have on the team fabric.
Asked whether he held reservations, the 51-Test lock said: "Look, I think anyone who comes here will come for the right reasons and fit into our culture.
"I think that's the most important thing that we've stressed. No matter who comes, whether they are a Test player or a young guy coming in, they have to come for the right reasons: because they want to play for Queensland and fit into our way of playing and do things our way.
"I'm sure if Richard and Jim didn't see that in any individual then they wouldn't go down that path."
Horwill said that he had not spoken to O'Connor since he was sent packing by the Australian Rugby Union last September, after being escorted from an international flight at Perth Airport for being drunk.
Horwill last spoke to Carmichael and Graham about recruitment and retention plans in May, before going into camp with the Wallabies for June's 3-0 sweep of France.
"I was happy," he said. "I have full trust in the organisation. They have the team's best interests at heart and always put Queensland rugby first and foremost."
Queensland have cleared the decks out wide, with Rod Davies, Dom Shipperley and Mike Harris leaving at the end of the season, while front-rowers Albert Anae and Jono Owen are also departing Ballymore.