Will Genia is well in the conversation when it comes to the world’s great halfbacks as he prepares to play his 100th Test, according to long-time teammate James Horwill.
Horwill captained Genia at the Reds but their rugby ties go back long before that.
The former Wallabies skipper and Genia both went to Brisbane’s Boys College and Horwill played first XV with Genia’s older brother Frankie.
Back then, Will was known as “Pooh Bear” in reference to children’s book character Winnie the Pooh.
“I remember I went to school with Will, I played with his older brother, so I remember when he was a little fat kid in grade 8,” he said.
“We used to nickname him Pooh bear because he looked like Winnie the pooh so that's probably my first memory of Willy, when he was in grade eight when I was a senior at BBC so fantastic achievement and it's great to see him, he's come a long way since then.”
Though Genia always had skill on the rugby field, Horwill said even the scrumhalf himself would be surprised to reach 100 Tests for Australia.
“He was always a very good rugby player but it's a surprise to probably himself and everyone but I think it's a fantastic achievement,” he said.
“There's no one who's worked harder. You speak to anyone, his work ethic is second to none. he works very hard at his own game, his fitness, he's come back from injuries, he's resilience to be able to get there.
“I think it's a great achievement someone who's being able to do it at a fantastic venue like Twickenham.”
Reaching 100 Tests is a mark that elevates many of the best players and Horwill said Genia would definitely in the mix when talking about rugby’s best halfbacks.
“He's up there with the great halfbacks,” he said.
“We've been very lucky in Australian rugby history that we've had a lot of very good number nines to play for the Wallabies.
“He'd certainly be in that conversation.
“Anyone who plays 100 Tests, it's not a fluke, you've got to be good and you've got to be consistently good and that's what he's shown and that's been the most pleasing thing for him I'm sure.
Horwill was alongside Genia for some of his greatest moments and one in particular stands out for the lock, though it’s not a Test moment.
He was next to Genia when he broke away to score the match-turning try for the Reds in the 2011 Super Rugby final against the Crusaders.
“That was probably individual brilliance from his part, don't think anyone else sort of had anything to do with it, he saw the opportunity and I didn't think he was going to get there, didn't know he had the gas but he proved me wrong which is great,” he said.
“He's a real competitor, real feisty little bugger like all good number nines should be. That's probably the moment that sticks out as well.”
Genia still has at least another season of Test rugby ahead of him, signed through to the end of 2019, but Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said there was no reason he couldn’t play on and potentially move within reach of George Gregan’s caps record.
Gregan played 139 Tests for the Wallabies and it’s a feat Genia could conceivably near should he play on beyond next year’s World Cup.
“I don’t see why not. Greegs will be ringing me and telling me not to select him that’s for sure. He may have already rung me this week, I’m not sure,” he said.
“The milestones, they occur just by nature. No one is looking to get them, players are looking to just perform and get the enjoyment out of the next game.
“Whatever happens going forward isn’t that relevant.
“It’s what happens on Saturday. He said the game is more important for the team than it is for him. That’s the type of player he is.”
While Genia has been quick to turn the attention to the team this week, the Wallabies haven't let the milestone float by with a special video tribute created for the vice-captain.
Genia posted a photo of the specially-made boots he will be wearing for the occasion as well, emblazoned with his initials, his family's names and the PNG flag.
The Wallabies take on England at Twickenham on Saturday November 24, kicking off at 3pm local, 2am AEDT, LIVE on beIN Sports and SBS.