JOHANNESBURG: Pick and stick – that’s incumbent Wallabies captain Ben Mowen’s philosophy for his Test replacement as Ewen McKenzie ramps up the search for a successor.
ACT Brumbies hooker Stephen Moore leads a list of candidates to take over the captaincy when the Wallabies play France in a three-Test series next month.
Moore, Michael Hooper, Will Genia and James Horwill appear to be the front-runners to take over from Mowen in the coming weeks.
Mowen was reluctant to back any of the contenders, but insisted World Cup success would start with picking a long-term captain ”to build trust” in the Wallabies.
The Wallabies are searching for their fifth captain in two years and Mowen said the leadership merry-go-round had to stop if the team wanted success.
”There are a few guys in the race, but I think the important thing is that the guy who captains through this French Test has to be locked in for the next 15-18 months,” Mowen said.
”It’s not only time in the saddle to get used to what’s involved with the captaincy, the team really needs to build a trust in whoever that bloke is.
”If they can drive some results through that period, now’s the time you want to be settling in on who’s the best captain with an eye to building a team for the World Cup.”
Mowen is on his last Super Rugby tour of South Africa with just five regular season games remaining in his Brumbies career before he moves to France.
He will lead the Brumbies into action against the Free State Cheetahs and the Pretoria Bulls as he aims for a Super Rugby title before leaving Australia.
Mowen, who took over as Wallabies captain last year, doesn’t expect to be picked for the Test series against France in June or the end-of-year Rugby Championships.
It leaves a hole in McKenzie’s squad as he decides who is best placed to take over the leadership role.
Moore is a clear standout in the pack, having played 91 Tests and more than 120 Super Rugby games. The 31-year-old is the best hooker in Australia and is regarded as a senior figure in both the Brumbies and Wallabies set-ups.
Former Brumby, now NSW Waratah, Hooper is just 22 and has played 28 Tests, but is already viewed as a potential captain.
Genia and Horwill have both had chances to lead the Wallabies.
The candidates have three games left before McKenzie settles on a squad for the Test series. It’s unclear whether he will select a long-term captain or give players longer to impress.
The Brumbies are at the top of the Australian conference and hope their Super Rugby success is converted to Test selection.
”Super Rugby form is important, but it’s not the be-all and end-all,” Mowen said. ”There might be guys struggling, but when you put them in big moments in a squad that complements each other, you’ll get more out of them.
”It’s not just about picking the best guy in each position, I think there has to be an overall team view and who fits the jigsaw puzzle to bring out the best in everyone.”
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