French offer on the table
Australia's Rugby Championship campaign is being threatened by a pay row involving one of the key players in the team.
Media reports suggest Ben Mowen is considering walking out over a payment dispute with the Australian Rugby Union - just a fortnight after captaining the team against Argentina.
The 28-year-old is understood to be frustrated because he's not receiving a top-up contract from the ARU, despite being a regular starter for the Wallabies.
Fox Sports is reporting that if the Brumbies skipper does walk, he'll do it midway through next year, and take up a lucrative deal in France.
It would be a massive blow to Super Rugby franchise the Brumbies, who are still reeling from the shock departure of coach Jake White last week, if their skipper left after the 2014 season.
Mowen agreed to terms with the Brumbies until 2015, on the proviso he also gets an ARU top-up, which is not forthcoming.
The cash-strapped ARU is limiting top-ups to players.
They have introduced a policy where players will only get top-up payments if they have played for more than two years with the Wallabies.
In that scenario, Mowen would have to wait until 2015 for a top-up to his Brumbies salary, because he only made his Test debut this year at the age of 28.
But a frustration among players is that the ARU makes concessions for code-hoppers, such as current Wallabies fullback Israel Folau.
The ARU paid Folau a top-up to reject Rugby League and play Rugby Union, after he left the AFL, and he received a significant upgrade when he renegotiated his contract in late August, having played just five Tests.
They did the same with ex-leaguies Lote Tuqiri, Wendell Sailor and Mat Rogers.
Mowen confirmed he had no deal with the ARU, but referred the matter to his manager David Shand, who confirmed his client's predicament.
"He signed with the Brumbies, who have been good, now we're trying to get the ARU part of the deal done," Shand told Fox.
Asked if Mowen has been approached by European clubs, Shand replied: "Of course, for the player the calibre of Ben who has captained his country".
In the absence of injured regular skipper James Horwill, Mowen took the honour of becoming Australia's 80th Test captain since 1899 when he led the Wallabies to a 14-13 win over Argentina on September 14.
But he was leading a dressing room of players earning significantly more.
Mowen still retains the vice-captaincy in the team and has developed his leadership credentials in the past two years by dragging the Brumbies from the tail of the Super Rugby ladder to grand finalists within two years.
White appointed Mowen skipper in 2012 even though he had been flicked from the Waratahs in favour of Rocky Elsom.
Mowen is not considered worthy of a top-up from the national body despite long-running talks.
The ARU believes that most Test players and aptly compensated by match payments, which are set at AU$14,000 per Test.
If a player was to feature in all 14 Tests this year, they will earn AU$196,000 in match payments alone, separate from their Super Rugby deals.
But the top-up element has been a crucial part of negotiations in past deals, and is guaranteed payment that is a safety net for players who miss Tests due to injury or non-selection.
Mowen, a father, must now weigh up what is best for his young family.
Sources: FoxSports & RadioLIVE