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Wallabies door open for Ben Mowen: Ewen McKenzie

Brumbies captain leaves the airport in July with wife Lauren and their daughter Eleanor.

Brumbies captain leaves the airport in July with wife Lauren and their daughter Eleanor. Photo: Melissa Adams

Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie says he won’t shut the selection door on captain Ben Mowen, who will walk away from the Australian game at the end of the Super Rugby season to take up a deal in France.

The Brumbies backrower stunned the rugby fraternity with the news on Thursday morning, with Fairfax revealing the 29-year-old wanted to spend more time with his young family after seven gruelling months on the road in 2013.

The move will rule Mowen out of the Rugby World Cup in 2015 but McKenzie said his departing skipper may have not played his final game in green and gold.

McKenzie, who is doing the rounds of the franchises as they prepare for the Super Rugby season, said he wouldn’t be rushing into any decisions given the first Test against the touring French wasn’t until June.

“He’s available in 2014. People will want to speculate about what that means. We’ll worry about selection for the Wallabies in six months time. Even last year, there were players that opted to go overseas and we still used them, (Sitaleki) Timani being the example,” McKenzie said.

“There’s things in play for me. We’ve got to get on with the business of developing, we’ve got to win games. We’ll look at the scenario at the time and look who’s performing. There’s no point in speculating.”

Mowen was thrust into the Wallaby captaincy after just six games and proved to be an effective leader for an Australian side trying to reinvent itself in the post-Robbie Deans era.

It took the best part of his career to earn a Wallaby jumper but even before the spring tour, he had spoken to McKenzie about his future and the impact of his prolonged absence on wife Lauren and young daughter Elanor.

“He spoke to me formally on Monday but we’ve been talking for a long time. Even prior to the tour, his contract situation had been discussed. We’ve talked more broadly than that – he’s a pretty measured guy and has been around the scene for a long time,” McKenzie said.

“It’s easy for everyone to sit on the sidelines and speculate and come up with conspiracy theories or whatever. In the end, the primary decision is a family one for him.

“The time away is critical for him. He’s 29 so his life is different to an 18-year-old. People need to understand he has different circumstances.”

McKenzie wouldn’t be drawn into any captaincy speculation either, saying there was ample leadership in the Wallaby squad, including former captain James Horwill, vice-captain Quade Cooper, Will Genia and David Pocock when he returns.

“Same thing. People want to speculate about that. A week is a long time in rugby so six months is a really long time. That will all just evolve,” McKenzie said.

“There’s a lot of leadership capacity. Captaincy is one thing, leadership is another. I’m interested in leadership. The whole team can lead.”

Mowen would have faced stiff competition in a jam-packed Wallaby backrow in 2014, assuming Pocock, Scott Higginbotham and Wycliff Palu are all available and free of injury.

7 comments so far

  • speculators, mmmmm, must be backs!
    Let's just get on with the business of building and evolving.
    I like to see the future in the hands of a prop; just trust he didn't have as many head knocks as me!! Good onya Ewen!

    Commenter
    Richard of North Sydney
    Date and time
    January 09, 2014, 3:07PM
    • Mowen's decision to spend more time with his family is laudable ... and he obviously sees this as his No.1 priority ... but how does he believe that playing for a French club will offer more 'home time' than he would get playing for the Brumbies (Wallabies selection aside)? I suspect that there is more to this decision than simply family matters (remembering his discussions with the ARU concerning contract status).

      As a former member of the Australian Defence Force, I am well aware of the impact of being away from my young family for protracted periods (months at a time). It can be personally demoralising ... but it is not insurmountable (particularly in view of today's technologies and rapid travel capabilities).

      I am disappointed that he is leaving Australian Rugby but wish him all the best and I hope that he finds what he is looking for. As Richard of North Sydney states: "Let's just get on with the business of building and evolving".

      Commenter
      Bob
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      January 09, 2014, 4:17PM
      • Bob, I think he is taking his wife and young child with him to France. He will be based in one area of France, and will travel within France to play way. I'm sorry to see him go, as a Brumbies member, but I understand his decision. You don't get that time with your kids back.

        Commenter
        greg@burra
        Location
        NSW
        Date and time
        January 09, 2014, 8:51PM
    • Contrary to what ungrateful, death riding kiwis, trying to prevent Australian rugby from developing any confidence say, we have plenty of depth and talent in Australia and now we have an Australian coach, we are going to be a lot more dangerous. A lot more. Witness cricketers boys. That's what we are talking about. Aggression, pride, commitment, fun.

      Commenter
      johnny-boy
      Date and time
      January 09, 2014, 5:52PM
      • I'm glad you consider losses to AB's - 3, SA -2, Lions - 2 and England - 1 a successful season.Not to mention a coach who has a 50 PC win /loss ratio, when Deans was on 58PC ,with wins against top sides. The longer the things like fights over player salaries, players quit to play in the north, loss of coach, sackings and ARU finanically hurting keep happening the more the ARU and the wallabies look like a joke. As for the player depth - what player depth. Capt gone and the VC ( Quade Cooper ) possibly not good enough to be promoted to Capt. The Capt must be the first person selected everytime - no doubts. Cooper spent large parts of 2013 International season on the bench. Just more indecision and poor management. 2014 season will be the same and us in NZ are gratetfully looking forward to watch the Wallabies again - good luck, you are going to need it. Wonder if 2014 will be another perfect season for the mighty AB's.

        Commenter
        sod98
        Date and time
        January 12, 2014, 12:29PM
    • Its a bit anachronistic that he can't play for Australia if he's playing in Europe. When the Socceroos pick a team playing in Europe is considered an advantage. It's doubly odd when you consider that overseas born are qualified to play for Australia. Shouldn't we pick Australians to represent Australia? This rule needs to be reconsidered.

      Commenter
      rob16a
      Date and time
      January 09, 2014, 6:40PM
      • One more chink in the wall against selecting overseas based players...

        Commenter
        Simon
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        January 09, 2014, 8:17PM

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