James Horwill has won Tri-Nations titles, conquered the All Blacks and captained Australia to the Rugby World Cup – but, for him, nothing can match the magnitude of facing The British & Irish Lions.
The 2013 series will forever be etched in Horwill’s mind: the noise of the crowd, the pressure of a nation, the sensational rugby played and, of course, the famous Sea of Red.
Not to be outdone, Australia put on a show and the public stopped to devour a series for the ages, with Horwill – the Wallabies captain – at its heart as rugby union took centre stage of the national consciousness.
The 2-1 series defeat to the Lions was in sharp contrast to what happened in 2001, when the Wallabies overturned a 1-0 deficit beat the Lions 2-1. Horwill was just 16 and lived every second of a series he said inspired him.
In 2025, the two teams will meet again. and Eddie Jones’ installation as Australia’s head coach only an extra ingredient to a mouth-watering series.
Horwill believes it is an exciting time to be a Wallaby, with a host of prodigious young players coming through the ranks and Jones back in charge 18 years on from his first spell at the helm.
Jones succeeded Dave Rennie as Australia’s head coach this year, having first coached the Wallabies between 2001 and 2005.
And Horwill is excited to see how his former head coach at Queensland Reds gets on during the British & Irish Lions Tour of Australia in 2025.
“It will be interesting to see how he comes back, probably by his own admission he did not leave Australian rugby on the best terms,” he said.
“It will be interesting, he has come back and is saying all the right things, but we will need to see how it plays out as he has got a big job ahead of him.
“I think we have got quite a young group of players, so by 2025 they will hopefully have a bit more experience under their belt and good experiences working with Eddie as it will be his third season as coach.
“We have seen that Eddie can get a team to peak at the right time, I think it is an exciting proposition.”
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While it may be more than two years until the series, it has been a long wait for Australia fans between Tours.
Horwill hopes it goes better than last time for the Wallabies, who lost the tightest of series.
Kurtley Beale missed a penalty in a dramatic conclusion to the opening Test, with the Lions storming to a 23-21 win in Brisbane.
The second Test saw Australia strike back, recording a 16-15 triumph after Lions full-back Leigh Halfpenny missed a late penalty of his own.
The stage was set for a thrilling decider, and it did not disappoint as the Lions ended a 16-year wait for a series win with a stunning 41-16 victory.
And Horwill admits that despite being on the losing side, it was an honour to be part of such a fantastic occasion.
He said: “Captaining Australia in those Tests was a big honour.
“The interest around it was great, it was on a similar level to a World Cup, if not more.
“The travelling press pack from the UK was much more than what we were used to here in Australia, so I think as the skipper I had to do a lot more media stuff.
“It gave you the idea that it was a big occasion, any time you captain your country, it is an honour.
“But to do it against a team that you only play once every 12 years, I was very lucky to be able to get that opportunity.”
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“In 2013, the crowds were loud, particularly that first game at Suncorp Stadium. I remember saying at the time after the game that it was as loud as I have heard an Australian crowd sing the national anthem,” he added.
“They out-sang the singer, and I think that shows what the Lions bring out of the Australian fans. I think that can only be a good thing, it is certainly a good rivalry, but it is a friendly rivalry on and off the pitch, particularly with the fans.
“I think that is a great part about it, you look at the pubs, and there are red and gold jerseys having a drink together.”