Former Wallaby skipper James Horwill on Quins’ jokers, road rage and how he got his ‘Big Kev’ nickname


30 Minutes with Harlequins second-row and former Wallaby James Horwill

Who’s the biggest character in the Quins changing room? 

Dave Ward. And in the backs, Danny Care is pretty quick-witted. I room with Dave (Ward), I’m the sensible roomie. He says I shower too often so he buys loads of Dove stuff and makes out it’s been sent by them because I’m such a loyal customer. He knows far too much about me – he does his research, I’ll give him that.

And who makes you laugh the most?

Joe (Marler). He’s pretty bright and understands what makes people tick. He likes making people feel as socially awkward as possible, but he’s a great guy to have around. A one-off.

What makes you chuckle online

The Betoota Advocate, a satirical newspaper about a typical Aussie town. There are clever headlines and articles. I’d recommend it, especially if you’re missing Oz.

What is your nickname?

Big Kev. When I was growing up there was a fictional character in these adverts called Kev McQueen. He sold toilet products and his catchphrase was ‘I’m excited!’. As a kid I was quite excitable, so it stuck. First it was Kev, then Big Kev. Everyone bar my wife and parents call me it, or a version of it. It has travelled 12,000 miles to London with me.

Big Kev: Horwill’s nickname has travelled over from Australia (Getty Images)

What are your favourite nicknames in the squad?

There’s nothing too weird. Adam Jones is Bomb and Mike Brown is Sméagol from Lord of the Rings, though we don’t say it to his face too much. Viss (Tim Visser) is the Flying Dutchman. He a plastic Scot, alright.

Do you have any bugbears?

It’s mainly in the car, bad drivers not indicating. Also, I find it weird here that people just pull up on the side of the road and put their hazard lights on and everyone is okay with that. How does that work? I lose my rag a bit. London traffic doesn’t help. I get angry and then my wife gets angry at me getting angry.

How about phobias?

Growing up in Australia you’re used to most creepy-crawlies. I don’t really like spiders but it doesn’t bring me out in a rash. We don’t get many of them in Putney, which is an advantage.

Who’d you least like to be in a lift with?

I’ve been stuck in a lift quite a few times, with the Wallabies. Can I say Dave Ward again? He’d chew my ear off.

What’s been your most embarrassing moment in rugby?

When I was playing in the U16s, the emotions got the better of me and I had a try disallowed for over-celebration.
I threw a ball down on someone’s head after I’d scored and the ref reversed the decision. That was pretty humiliating. I didn’t do it again.

Who would be your three favourite dinner guests?

Michael Jordan, the greatest of all time, to pick his brains about how he’s been so successful in business. Someone like Jay-Z would be cool; a lot of those rappers have reinvented themselves. Richard Branson would be interesting, too. He’s very charismatic and hasn’t made his money in a conventional way.

MJ: Horwill wants to pick Michael Jordan’s brain on how to be successful in business (Getty Images)

Do you have any hidden talents?

I do a good Chewbacca impression. I’m pretty big and hairy so it fits well.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Peanut M&Ms. The night before a match, I treat myself because I know I’m going to burn off any calories.

Any plans for when you stop playing?

I have a British passport, my mother is from here, so I could stay here. I’d like to work in sports admin or as a general manager – the business side of sport.

This article originally appeared in the March 2018 edition of Rugby World magazine.