Cooper the next Wallaby captain?
Thu, 09 Jan 2014 14:07
It was short and sweet for a Test career
Quade Cooper’s remarkable return could culminate with him becoming the next Wallaby captain after Ben Mowen’s shock decision to quit Australian rugby.
Mowen on Thursday announced that he'll join the French exodus at the end of the year, seemingly leaving vice-captain Cooper next in line to lead Australia.
Out of the Wallaby frame last June, when Australia suffered a series defeat to the British and Irish Lions, Cooper was recalled by Ewen McKenzie after the former Reds mentor replaced Robbie Deans as Wallaby coach.
The playmaker was given the freedom he controversy called for during Deans’ era and quickly made the Wallaby No.10 jersey his own again.
A firm believer in Cooper’s mercurial skills, McKenzie appointed the pivot vice-captain and the 25-year-old thrived in the leadership position.
He showed maturity and consistency he previously lacked whist losing none of his attacking venom and spearheaded the Wallabies’ turn-around on their end-of-year tour.
McKenzie has no shortage of options, with lock James Horwill, scrumhalf Will Genia and returning flank David Pocock all prime candidates to resume the roles they once had on the international stage.
However, given how highly McKenzie thinks of Cooper, the flyhalf may well be entrusted with the captaincy ahead of the 2015 World Cup.
McKenzie praised Mowen for his professionalism and said he would still consider him for this year’s Tests, but said he would name a new skipper with a view towards the future.
McKenzie added that he would only make a final call after the Super Rugby season.
"There's a bunch of guys," McKenzie told AAP.
"We don't have to pick a team for six months, so we'll worry about that closer to the time."
Mowen had attempted to negotiate a new Wallaby contract after taking over the captaincy, having earned less than many of his teammates last season.
The Australian Rugby Union, though, stuck to their policy to only provide top-up contracts to players who have been part of the national set-up for two years.
Mowen, however, insists his decision was due to personal reasons.
The loose forward spent almost seven months away from his young daughter Eleanor and his wife Lauren last year and want to spend more time with his family.
"We were working along nicely and it got to the point before we even had to come to an agreement that I rang Ewen and said 'look, it's not going to be about money'," said Mowen.
"It's more about what is fitting with my motivation.”
Mowen said he had mentioned the possibility of leaving to McKenzie after the Wallabies' season finale against Wales on November 30 but only made his decision on Christmas.
"Straight after the full-time siren, I informed him how I was feeling," he said.
"I'm lucky enough that I have a really good relationship with Link [McKenzie] to do that. And he was really supportive and understood.
"It was just time at home at Christmas around the family where I thought, 'nah, at this stage, this is more important to me than trying to get to the World Cup.'"
Mowen added: "I am probably the first [Wallaby captain to be in this situation], but I'm also probably the first bloke to make his Test debut at 28 and retire at 29.
"It was short and sweet for a Test career. It's a hard decision. It took months, but I'm comfortable where I've come to and I'm proud of the contribution I've made."
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