James Horwill on the moment Paul O'Connell played on against him with a broken arm 5 years ago

James Horwill on the moment Paul O'Connell played on against him with a broken arm

As rugby injuries go, James Horwill has had worse. As rugby injuries look, this was grim.

In November 2016, the sporting world felt their breakfast coming back up when they saw images of James Horwill's finger in a bad way. A bad, bad way.


A raw bone skewing straight out of the flesh way, with the tip of the finger hanging at a right angle [picture below, but it is GRAPHIC].

The Harlequins, and former Australia, captain was back and playing again soon after but, that night, he was convinced he could play on with that finger half hanging off. Ahead of Quins' 'Big Game 10', against Northampton Saints at Twickenham, Horwill spoke with us about that nasty injury.

"There’s a small scar there but, look, I was quite lucky in the incident that it was a clean break. I didn’t rupture tendons or anything, which was lucky as that would’ve caused more issues. In this cold weather it gets a little bit sore, and aches a little, so I’ve probably done something to the nerves.

"But it’s in working order, which I’m quite lucky about because when you have some of those compound dislocations or fractures you can sometimes tear tendons. I was very lucky that that didn’t happen. The picture certainly went viral but it probably looked worse than it was."

Okay, here's the picture...


Horwill's comments about the injury, and trying to play on through the pain, will relate to so many rugby players out there.

"I got [my finger] stuck in a jersey. A Leicester Tigers guy jumped and mis-read it, so I put my hand on the back of his shirt so as he came down from the lineout, my finger got caught in a ruffle on his jersey – he kept going and my hand stayed there.

"I don’t know if you’ve ever dislocated a finger but it kind of goes and you go, ‘Damn, that hurts a bit’. Then I looked at it and there was a bit of blood coming out so I knew I had ruptured it completely out of the socket and out of the skin. So, I guess, the key thing for me was to get the finger back in.

"I’ve dislocated fingers a few times over the years and usually you feel the relief when [the bone] is popped back in to the joint. That was probably my only thought back then – someone will pop it back in and hopefully the pain will subside and we can assess what the damage is. The physios and the doctors had a fair, good crack on the field but couldn’t get it back in so I had to come off. We got it put back in, in the medical room after using some anaesthetic to numb off the joint a little bit.”


Horwill was on the pitch, in June 2013, when Paul O'Connell went one step forward and finished out the final 10 minutes of the Lions' First Test win over Australia after fracturing a bone in his arm.

Wallabies prop Wycliff Palu recalls the bizarre sensation of packing down to scrum on the other side and knowing O'Connell's arm was busted. To Horwill, nothing about the Ireland legend surprises him.

"I do remember it happening but I don’t remember us talking much about it at the time. It’s one of those things in the big games that you try to get the adrenaline to take over. You try not to think about it. With injuries, they happen. There’s a limit that you can push.

"Obviously, Paulie was hurt and injured but he’s an incredibly tough competitor and a guy that wanted to play so much for the Lions. It obviously meant a lot to him and he tried to do everything he could. Sometimes it’s about proving to yourself that it didn’t happen – ‘I can do this’ or ‘It’s not actually hurting that much’.

"It’s one of those things that you’ve seen with a lot of guys – playing through pain. Sometimes when you look back in the morning, you may regret actually playing through that amount of pain."


These rugby lads are tough old buggers.

James and Harlequins return to Twickenham Stadium on Saturday 30th December for Big Game 10. For tickets go to https://tickets.quins.co.uk