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October 18, 2018
Rob Horne: Ex-Australia and Northampton star on dealing with paralysis - and tributes
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Rob Horne: Ex-Australia and Northampton star on dealing with paralysis – and tributes


Rob Horne (bottom) received lengthy treatment during the match against Leicester last April

On 14 April 2018 Rob Horne’s life changed forever.

Just 13 seconds into the East Midlands derby between Leicester and Northampton, Horne, captaining Saints for the first time, chased the kick-off and went hard into a routine tackle.

“I just remember being unable to move,” the Australian international tells the BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast.

“I was lying there pretty embarrassed. I just wanted to get up and play.”

Horne was left with severe nerve damage and paralysis in his right arm as a result of the collision, forcing him to retire from rugby at the age of 28.

‘I thought I had dislocated my shoulder’

It was the kind of tackle Horne had carried out hundreds of times in his career.

“I just felt like I had to give everything. If I didn’t do that, that wouldn’t be true to how I played the game. If I didn’t approach it like that, I wouldn’t have been true to myself,” he remembers.

“I thought I had dislocated my right shoulder. It wasn’t until we got to Leicester Infirmary, and I saw the body language and demeanour of the specialists and how they were approaching me, that was when there was a feeling something serious had happened.

“When I got down to Stanmore I had an exploratory operation when they had a look, and from that it was pretty clear cut that it was paralysis.”

‘Who says you have to hit rock bottom?’

Rob Horne: “Living with paralysis, I am getting more efficient in day to day life.”

Horne will not regain feeling in his right arm. Now almost six months after the accident, he is continuing to adapt.

“I’m just happy to have found my feet now. I’ve got one arm so you have to find ways of doing things you took for granted,” he explains.

“Initially it took forever for me to get ready. I have two young kids at home and working out why Dad can’t pick me up at the moment is a really difficult thing to explain to a toddler. But you find ways.

“The body is pretty amazing and the mind is certainly an incredible thing. You adapt, you continue to develop and find ways to do things.

“Living with paralysis, I am getting more efficient in day-to-day life.”

While he admits to experiencing a “rough patch” following major surgery, Horne says his “positive realism” has been key.

“The fact was I was told from the get-go I was going to live with paralysis, so there was no false hope,” he adds.

“You need to be real about it, but you need to be positive about that.

“I was probably in shock for a while, but I didn’t get that low. A lot of people close to me were a bit worried that I was coping too well. How I responded to that was ‘who says you have to hit rock bottom to bounce back?’

“I owe a lot to the people around me; I owe a lot to my family and in particular my wife, who has gone through this as well. She has ridden every high and low with me.”

‘You can’t live in fear’

Rob Horne (left) appeared in two World Cups and played against the British and Irish Lions during their tour of 2013 – he last appeared for Australia in June 2017

Despite the trauma of his injury, and the repercussions of it, Horne shows no ill-feeling towards the sport he played professionally for a decade.

As well as coming to terms with the paralysis in his arm, he is completing a Masters degree in commerce as he starts to forge a new career.

“I don’t have any bitterness towards the game,” he insists. “It has played such a massive part of my life and has shaped who I am as a man. I am already in my back garden tackling my one-year-old.”

And while he encourages the current generation of players to consider the next step after their careers, he has urged men and women playing the game to enjoy and revel in the sport.

“You can’t live in fear. Does anyone have a plan? Everyone is getting by and finding their way,” he says.

“The way I approached the young guys in the Saints changing room was to just get the best out of themselves and not to play with fear.”

‘Twickenham tribute is humbling’

Northampton have moved this Saturday’s fixture against Leicester to Twickenham, with proceeds going to Horne and his family.