Setback for Saracens as injury holds up Horan's debut

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The Independent Online

The Australia centre Tim Horan, who is scheduled to join the Premiership club Saracens next month, yesterday announced his retirement from international rugby because of a foot injury.

The Australia centre Tim Horan, who is scheduled to join the Premiership club Saracens next month, yesterday announced his retirement from international rugby because of a foot injury.

Horan, a centre who has won 80 caps for Australia, had been hoping to make his farewell Test appearance against South Africa in Durban on 26 August, but the injury has not cleared up and he explained: "I'm a definite no-go. I am probably at least another four or five weeks away from playing. I just have to give the injury time."

The news will not cheer Saracens, although they are resigned to being without the 30-year-old Horan, voted Player of the Tournament in last year's Rugby World Cup, until the start of the European Cup.

Horan picked up the injury during the first Test against Argentina in mid-June and has missed Australia's two Bledisloe Cup matches against New Zealand as well as the home Test against South Africa at the end of last month.

Harlequins, another club to have shown ambition in the summer, should look a very different team from the one tradition and last season's records might suggest. The new coach, Richard Hill, fresh from a spell with Ebbw Vale, has a hefty task to turn a side that has been dubbed "City Slickers" in its time into a set of the hardest, hungriest and meanest bunch of players around.

"There had been so much surgery during the close season and there are now so many new faces here that I do not think motivating players will be a problem," said Hill, the senior coach who will be working alongside Zinzan Brooke. "After our friendly against Ebbw Vale last week the players were complimented on their enthusiasm, their commitment and their toughness by the opposition."

The squad will be helped by the return of the Ireland hooker Keith Wood, as fiery and as competitive as ever, as well as the Australian flanker David Wilson. The latter has been appointed captain, but Wood is standing in for the next month while Wilson fulfils his obligations with Australia.

"He should make his debut for us in the televised match against Bristol on 16 September," said Mark Evans, the new chief executive at The Stoop.

His arrival is an indication that Harlequins mean business off the field as well as on it. Evans is 41 and knows pretty well every aspect of the game, from playing as a hooker for Saracens to coaching them before moving on to the administrative side.

Evans has made some shrewd signings, among them Will Greenwood, who returns to West London from Leicester, the back row forward Eric Peters from Bath and the flanker Roy Winters from Bedford. Niall Woods has left London Irish to stay at The Stoop and a former Exile Paul Burke has joined them from Cardiff.

Nor would Hill, who had no sooner moved into one of the toughest jobs that he has held so far in his short coaching career than he was thinking of adding to his burden. For the last three years he has been coaching England A and he wants to stay involved. But he said yesterday: "I do not know what is going to happen this season. My contract with England A ran out at the end of July so I will just have to wait and see what they have to say."

And as clubs tie up the loose ends before the season gets under way this weekend Doddie Weir was yesterday appointed captain of Newcastle Falcons in succession to his fellow Scotland international Gary Armstrong.

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