Ben more bang for the buck
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 14: Ben Mowen of the Brumbies celebrates scoring a try during the round eight Super Rugby match between the Brumbies and the Rebels at Canberra Stadium on April 14, 2012 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images) Photo: Mark Nolan
The ACT Brumbies have already got more on-field value out of new skipper Ben Mowen than they did from an injury-plagued Rocky Elsom during his two-year stint in the capital, club great Owen Finegan says.
Elsom will line up for the NSW Waratahs in their rivalry clash with the Brumbies at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.
It's the first time the former Wallabies skipper has returned since playing one game for the Brumbies last year and just 13 matches in his two seasons with the two-time Super Rugby champions.
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MAY 21: Rocky Elsom of the Brumbies looks on during the round 14 Super Rugby match between the Force and the Brumbies at nib Stadium on May 21, 2011 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
But his departure effectively opened the door for Mowen to join the Brumbies as a versatile back-rower.
It's unlikely Elsom will be called into the Waratahs' starting XV, but when he gets on the field he will be in a battle with Mowen - captain versus captain, former Brumby v former Waratah and blindside flanker v blindside flanker.
Despite being named NSW captain, Elsom has played just two games from the Waratahs bench this year as he continues his ongoing recovery from off-season hamstring tendon surgery.
Mowen will be recalled to the Brumbies team today after overcoming a neck injury which kept him out of the win over the Johannesburg Lions last week.
Former Brumbies and Wallabies flanker Finegan said recruiting Mowen had already paid off.
''In two years with the Brumbies Rocky had limited game time and was injury prone,'' Finegan said.
''He hasn't played that much for the Waratahs either whereas Ben Mowen has been inspirational and a good acquisition for the Brumbies.
''[Elsom] was probably one of those ones you look back where you didn't get value for money on the field.
''He was the Wallabies captain and coming back from Europe, there was potential there but unfortunately he had a lot of time off with injuries.''
Elsom was a prized recruit for the Brumbies when he returned to Australia for the 2010 season.
He played 12 games and was at his devastating best.
But he was struck down by injuries after the end-of-year Wallabies Tests and it ruined his 2011 campaign.
A hamstring injury kept him out of action until round 14.
In his return match against the Western Force, he suffered an ankle injury and failed to play again before the end of the season.
''I've said this in the past - our [the Brumbies'] rugby program wasn't what it should have been the last couple of years down at the Brumbies and they seem to have corrected that,'' Elsom said.
''They're obviously not [the same outfit they were last year].
''We don't need any more motivation than just the four points, we need a win at this time of the year and they probably do too.
''They're a side we've got to treat with a fair bit of respect.''
In contrast to Elsom's time with the Brumbies, Mowen has played all-but one of the Brumbies' nine games this year.
After White appointed him captain, he has established himself as an influential player who will push for Wallabies selection this year.
He has a different style to Elsom and his lineout nous has bolstered the Brumbies' set piece.
''Rocky is very confrontational, Ben brings his own aggression to the game, is very good over the ball and his strength this year has been his aerial skills,'' Finegan said.
''When you look at what each of them have done in terms of performing this year, you definitely know who you would prefer.''
Mowen started the season at No.8, but has moved to blindside flanker to make way for powerful Fotu Auelua.
Finegan hoped it would help the club continue its resurgence.
''They have the hunger to get to the highest level because they haven't played for the Wallabies before,'' Finegan said.