Horne keen to keep Waite's options open

Stand-in winger's versatility comes to Lions coach's rescue while stand-off is separated from Ashes squad after catching virus
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The Independent Online

Richard Horne will have one big advantage in Saturday's second Ashes Test at his home ground at Hull. He will be twice as experienced in the left-wing role he is being asked to play as he was in the opening match of the series.

"I'd never played there before in a senior game, just in one Academy match," he said. "But it's quite similar to full-back in the way that you have to judge when the kicks are coming and I got a lot of help during the build-up from Brian Carney and Keith Senior."

For a novice in the role, the young Hull player did remarkably well last Saturday, contributing to the 12-man defensive effort with a couple of timely tackles - including a try-saver on Phil Bailey - and some reassuringly clean handling from kicks.

If there was a flaw, it was in slightly over-running Senior's break and allowing his pass to go behind him, when a successful take could have brought a crucial try. It is something he has reflected upon since.

"I'd taken my line off Paul Sculthorpe and I found myself having to come back. I was just a yard in front and it was a missed opportunity," he says. "I might do better next time."

Horne had a strange start to his international career two years ago, when David Waite named him at scrum-half to face the Kangaroos, even though both coach and player knew that he was going to start on the bench.

"It was a bit of a mind-game, like you get in most sports now," Horne says. "It was a bit awkward for me, as a young player, pretending I was starting and knowing I wasn't. At least this time I actually knew I was starting."

For club and country, Horne has played full-back, centre and both half-back positions over the past couple of years, always showing the pace and awareness that are his hallmarks. For Great Britain last Saturday, he displayed another of the strings to his bow, by moving to hooker and dummy-half, organising play down the centre for a key phase of the game.

Again he showed the ability to adapt - "I was just glad to be able to get in there and get involved," he says - and Horne does not worry unduly about being cast as a jack-of-all-trades.

"If you look at most players now, they have a utility role, where they can play more than one position. If I had a favourite now it would probably be full-back. I've played there quite a bit for Hull now, but it's going to be hard to get into the Great Britain team at full-back, because of Kris Radlinski."

Instead, the 21-year-old has reconciled himself to finding his way into the Test team in any position where a shortage of specialist talent gives him the opportunity - and there is simply no genuine, British-qualified winger who has staked a claim this year.

That gives Horne the chance to be part of something special, something that has eluded generations of thoroughbred wingmen such as Martin Offiah and Jason Robinson, since Leeds' graceful John Atkinson played on the left flank for the last British side to win the Ashes 33 years ago.

Those are footsteps he firmly believes he and his team-mates can follow in over the next two weekends, despite the frustrating nature of their defeat last Saturday.

"We've always had the belief that we could beat them," he says. "It's just a matter of putting it together on the park. Saturday was a game where we didn't take our opportunities and then switched off in defence in the last few minutes for them to score.

"I think everybody knows that we've got the ability to win it and the team to win it. We've been together as a team, for the most part, for a couple of years now and we know how each other play. It's just a case of putting it all together and getting the result."

If they do, Richard Horne - who surely has a highly successful career ahead of him as a half-back or full-back - could be the answer to a quiz question that will stump most people in years to come.

Who was Great Britain's left-winger when they won back the Ashes? Surely not the versatile footballer from Hull ... but it could happen.

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