Brumby duo get Wallaby extensions

Thu, 24 Jan 2013 07:03
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Experienced Wallaby front row forwards Stephen Moore and Ben Alexander have provided Australia with a major boost ahead of a pivotal 2013 season.

Experienced Wallaby front row forwards Stephen Moore and Ben Alexander have provided Australia with a major boost ahead of a pivotal 2013 season by announcing they will continue to ply their trade in the country until at least 2015.

The pair, who are both Canberra-based with the Brumbies, have extended their current deals for a further two years, taking them through until the conclusion of the next World Cup in England.

As the most capped hooker in Australian Test history, and the fourth most capped prop respectively; Moore and Alexander both wield a massive influence within the Wallabies environment.

The 30-year-old Moore, who recently became a father for the first time, says the lure of attending a third World Cup, after this year experiencing a British & Irish Lions tour for the first time, made the decision to stay an easy one.

"I've still got a lot that I would like to achieve both with the Brumbies and the Wallabies, and I can't do that by heading overseas," he says.

"Courtney [Moore's wife] and I are well settled in Canberra now, and that aspect of our lives has taken on an even greater importance after the birth of our son Theodore at the start of this year.

"While playing Super Rugby, and representing one's country at Test level is a big commitment, and requires a lot of travel; we have the support structures in place for Courtney here, have a lot of friends around us, and both still love the Australian lifestyle."

Moore's importance to the Wallabies is such that prior to sustaining a hamstring injury in training before Australia's Test against South Africa in Perth last year, he had missed just 14 of the 69 Tests played by the national side in the five seasons between 2008 and 2012.

After making his return on the year-end tour, Moore eclipsed Jeremy Paul's previous record for the most appearances by an Australian hooker, playing his 73rd Test during the Wallabies tour opener against France in Paris.

For good measure, Moore ended that match as captain, having taken over when his good mate and Tour skipper Nathan Sharpe was replaced during the second half at the Stade de France.

Moore has made a habit of adding a bit of gloss to significant career achievements: his 50th Test, which came against South Africa at Bloemfontein in 2010, saw him score a try as he shared in Australia's first win on the South African high veldt for 47 years.

As well as becoming Australia's most capped hooker, last year also saw Moore become just the 60th player in Super Rugby (and the 24th who had represented an Australian side) to surpass a century of matches in that competition. He made his debut at the Queensland Reds in 2003 before linking with the Brumbies in 2009.

Alexander, who rocketed into the spotlight in 2008 after virtually coming from nowhere to make the Wallabies side in Robbie Deans' first year as national coach, has now played 48 Tests since his debut against France in Sydney.

The 28-year-old begins 2013 poised to become just the fourth Australian prop to achieve a half century of appearances, following on from Al Baxter (69), Ewen McKenzie (51) and current front-row colleague Benn Robinson (currently 56), who surpassed 50 Tests last year.

As many as eight current Wallabies are within range of 50 Test appearances as the year begins.

Alexander says the continuity prevalent in Australian Rugby at present, with a large group of players resisting the temptation to play overseas in order to push on with the Wallabies, was a major factor in his decision to recommit.

"While last year was an eventful one, and provided a lot of challenges for everyone associated with the Wallabies, it was a tight group," Alexander says.

"We stuck together and showed what it meant to us to represent Australia.

"The wins in Argentina, where none of us had ever played a Test before, and against England at Twickenham, were incredibly special performances.

"The team showed great heart and togetherness in the face of extreme adversity.

"While we might not be ranked number one in the world at the moment [Australia is ranked third, but only decimal points behind South Africa], I truly believe we have the potential to get there.

"Last year's run of injuries has exposed a lot more players, created a lot more competition for places and a lot greater depth in each position, which will help moving forward.

"If you look at the All Blacks, they've got two or three guys who can step up in every position. That's where we are getting to, which is why I believe there is so much more to come from the Wallabies."

While he was schooled at Knox College and made the Australian Under-21 side while still Sydney-based, Alexander's career took off once he relocated to Canberra.

After appearing for the Western Sydney Rams in the sole season of the Australian Rugby Championship in 2007, he then enjoyed a stint with Bedford in the National Division One championship in England later that year.

Alexander headed to Canberra once he returned from Bedford and was playing Test rugby within a few months of his Super Rugby debut for the Brumbies.

Initially a loosehead, Alexander switched to the tighthead side of the scrum for the Wallabies in his second season, and has maintained a regular presence in the gold number three jersey through the time since.

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