Horwill still the man to captain the Reds - coach

LAINE CLARK
Last updated 07:00 04/12/2013

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James Horwill is still the best man to captain the Reds, says Queensland coach Richard Graham who baulks at suggestions the lock's game benefited from being stripped of the Wallabies leadership.

In what was subsequently deemed a masterstroke, Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie - Graham's Reds predecessor - sensationally replaced Horwill with Test rookie Ben Mowen as skipper in October.

Horwill bounced back after lacklustre form earlier to produce improved efforts on the tour to Europe, helping Australia finish with four straight wins last month.

As part of McKenzie's bold changes, reformed Reds playmaker Quade Cooper was promoted to Wallabies vice-captain just a year after being persona non grata and his game flourished on the Europe tour with the added responsibility.

Graham admitted Cooper had put his hand up as a potential future Reds captain but claimed Horwill was never in danger of losing the Super Rugby team's reins.

"Quade has been outstanding on this tour," said Graham on Tuesday.

"He is confident and when he is you see the full array of skills that he has got - I think that makes us a better team.

"Quade has been a leader here for the last three or four years by the nature of his position.

"(But) Horwill has captained the team very well. There is no reason in my mind to change the captaincy."

Graham didn't but the theory Horwill may play better without the burden of leadership.

"I don't think necessarily taking the captaincy off him was the catalyst (to his form revival)," he said.

"James and Ewen would have discussed it and given great thought about it but it was fantastic to see him play well."

Meanwhile, Graham said he had no problem with Cooper continuing with boxing despite the injury risk it poses.

Cooper has made it clear since inspiring the Wallabies' tour ending 30-26 win over Wales that he will not follow in the footsteps of good mate Sonny Bill Williams, who has put his budding boxing career on hold for at least three years.

Due to the hectic year-round rugby schedule, Cooper may be forced to cram his second professional bout in between Reds pre-season trials, as he did successfully earlier this year.

Graham said boxing only seemed to benefit Cooper's rugby game.

"I have no issues (with him continuing boxing)," he said.

"I think physically it keeps him in really good condition."

Graham said winger Rod Davies (knee) was their only injury concern ahead of their pre-season which will include a February 14 clash with Melbourne Rebels at "spiritual home" Ballymore.

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Cooper said he would discuss a suitable date for his next fight when he resumed training in coming days - well before the scheduled January 16 return date for Queensland's Wallabies contingent.

"I want next year to be a better year. There are areas that I can improve my game," Cooper told reporters on his return to Brisbane on Tuesday.

"I am looking at areas away from the game where I can be a better teammate and a better person."

Horwill said he would relish the Reds' reins in 2014.

"I enjoy captaining my state and obviously enjoy captaining my country but now that (being Reds skipper) is something I can work on," he said in Brisbane on Tuesday.

- AAP

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