James Horwill will become the latest World Cup player to represent Cambridge University RUFC this season after coming out of retirement to bid to play in the Varsity Match at Twickenham in December.
The 62-times capped former Australian captain hung up his boots in the professional game at the end of last season after four years at Harlequins. Since then he has enrolled on the prestigious Executive MBA course at Cambridge University.
“It will be nice going full circle and going back to club rugby,” admitted the 34-year-old Horwill, who captained the Wallabies 16 times in his 14-year professional career.
“To be part of a club that has got such deep roots and history is a real honour. There have been a lot of well known Australians playing in the Varsity Match down the years and if I can put my name on that list then I will be very proud.
“I watched last year’s game, and the one in which Jamie Roberts was involved, and I spoke at length to Dan Vickerman about his experience here. He spoke very highly of his time at Cambridge and he obviously had a huge impact on the club- if I can follow in his footsteps then I’ll be very happy.
“It is going to be different because you Cambridge don’t play in a league. You get some warm-up matches for the Grand Final.
“But there is still a desire in me to play the game, perform and win stuff. The ability to play in such an historic game, linked to my studies, is really exciting for me.
“If I can help any of the younger guys with their rugby then I am more than happy to do so, but I’ve got to make sure I am in the shape I need to be to play in the big game. It’s not about me it is all about the team getting ready to function and to perform to the right level to win.
“I’m already learning to dislike the opposition. The rivalry is strong and healthy between eh two universities and that’s the great part of it.”
Horwill’s formal unveiling at Grange Road as a Cambridge University player comes as another international second row, the 2012 Cambridge Blue Nate Brakeley was named in the USA squad for the upcoming World Cup in Japan.
Horwill is following in the footsteps of his 2011 World Cup lock partner Dan Vickerman in going to Cambridge. Vickerman played at three World Cups and captained Cambridge in 2009.
When he opted to stand down from the professional game last season he claimed he could “no longer give what is needed to play at elite level”. But he can’t wait to get back on the field for the Light Blues and could come into contention for the opening game of the term against Loughborough Students at Grange Road on Wednesday, 18 September.
This year’s Varsity Match is at Twickenham on 12 December, when Cambridge will be looking to get back to winning ways after losing 38-16 last year to Oxford.
“This is a fantastic boost for the whole rugby programme at Cambridge. Having a player of the international standing of James in our club will help to raise standards and awareness, just as it did when his former Harlequins team mate Jamie Roberts was with us,” said former Cambridge president, and ex-England wing, Mark Bailey.
“We benefitted hugely from having Dan Vickerman at the club in 2008 and 2009 and we are sure that James will make a similar impact. He will, of course, still have to fight for his place in the Varsity Match side, but our new captain Stephen Leonard will no doubt he pleased to have him available for consideration for Twickenham.
“His EMBA programme at the Cambridge Judge Business School is an exacting course that lasts 20 months. That means he could squeeze in two Varsity Matches if he can find the time.”
The Varsity Match 2019 is set to take place on Thursday 12 December at Twickenham Stadium.
Tickets are available from only £25 for adults, £15 for students and £10 for juniors.
Group tickets and VIP hospitality packages available.