Simmons pays tribute to long-term rugby partner Horwill

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

For a long time in his Super Rugby career, the only second row partnership Rob Simmons knew was one with James Horwill.

Simmons and Horwill shared the field for almost a decade with the Reds, winning the 2011 championship together, and they took their partnership to the Test arena as well.

Horwill announced his retirement from rugby on Monday night and though it's been four years since the pair have played together, Simmons still rates their duo as one of his most significant.

"It's a pretty special one," he said.

"He's a close friend of mine and that was built through our relationship on the field. We played, I played most of my rugby with him so it's hard to compare to any other relationship really.

"It was the longest (relationship) - that's in rugby. 

"It was awesome to play with him, I love playing with him and we've got a special bond on and off the field."

James Horwill holds up the trophy after the 2011 Super Rugby title win. Photo: Getty ImagesSimmons said the duo complemented each other in their style, with their pairing flourishing under Ewen McKenzie at the Reds.

"That's definitely something that kept us together and we enjoyed about each other on the field and I think we built that from the start, especially when Ewen came to the Reds," he said.

Simmons admitted he was surprised by the announcement, which came on Monday night but doesn't expect his friend to be lost to rugby.

"Typical Kevvy, just dropping it on everyone and not wanting much of a fuss," he said.

"He'll be sorely missed around the rugby community - actually I don't think he will be, I'm sure he'll stick around like he always does.

"He's had a great career and congratulations to him. he's earned everything he's got through his career and it's been tough one through the injuries he's had and things like that and to last as long as he has, it's a credit to him."

Simmons isn't the only player who has given their congratulations to Horwill, who is still one of Queensland rugby's favourite sons.

Horwill started his Super Rugby career with the Queensland Reds, playing 116 matches and captaining the side to the 2011 Super Rugby championship.

The lock, nicknamed Kev, made his Wallabies debut in 2007 and narrowly missed out on that year's World Cup squa.d

His time would come four years, captaining the Wallabies in the 2011 Rugby World Cup, capping off a dream 2011 season.

Horwill was a surprise omission from the 2015 Rugby World Cup squad and the Queensland veteran made the move to English club Harlequins at the end of that season.

He returned to Australia under the Giteau Law in the 2016 England series and played the last of his 62 Tests at Suncorp Stadium in the first game of that series.

The 33-year-old played four seasons at Harlequins, captaining the side in recent seasons.

Horwill announced his retirement on Monday night, thanking fans, teammates, coaches and his family for their support.

Thank you rugby 🏉 ❤️

A post shared by James Horwill (@jhorwill) on

"The time has come for me to retire from professional rugby. I have given this great game everything I have & I feel I can no longer give what is needed to play at this elite level," he wrote.

"Rugby has been a big part of my life for many years, never in my wildest dreams would I have envisaged the incredible journey it has taken me on.

I’ve had the privilege and honour to not only play, but captain my state, country and club on a number of occasions over my 14-year career."

Horwill listed that 2011 championship and leading the Wallabies as among his career highlights.

"Winning the Super Rugby title and being asked to captain my country are some of the moments I’ll cherish for a lifetime," he wrote.

"I want to thank all the coaches and staff I’ve worked with over my career, you have all made an impact and shaped me into the player I am today."

The Brisbane-born and bred Horwill had his fair share of injury setbacks, including a gruesome hamstring injury that cost him a season in 2012 and he was quick to thank medical staff for the role they played.

"Special thanks must go to the physios and doctors, who have put me back together. We spent more time together than I would have liked, but without your care, I wouldn’t have played as long," he wrote.

"To all the players I have had the pleasure to play with (and against), you are why I have loved my career so much. We have made some unforgettable memories and I know I have friends for life.

"To the fans all over the world,who have supported me throughout my career, thank you .

"My job would not have existed without you; you are what makes this game so special."

Horwill will play on with Harlequins for the rest of the English season.