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Ben Mowen may say au revoir to Australian rugby early

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Georgina Robinson, Chris Dutton

Ben Mowen could leave Australia as early as August.

Ben Mowen could leave Australia as early as August. Photo: Getty Images

Ben Mowen could leave Australia as early as August after the Wallabies captain broke a deadlock with the Australian Rugby Union that has lasted months.

Mowen, hailed on Wednesday as the best captain with whom Wallabies legend Stephen Larkham had ever coached or played, has been linked to France's Montpellier and is said to have agreed to a three-year deal with the Top 14 club.

But the ARU's notoriously hard line on granting players early releases had triggered a stand-off between it and the Brumbies captain and his management.

Fairfax Media understands the deadlock was broken last week.

Mowen, who last year led the Wallabies to four wins in a row for the first time in five years, has been cleared to leave Australia, at the latest after the third Bledisloe Cup Test on October 18, but potentially as early as at the end of the Super Rugby season in August.

His departure date hinges on whether Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie will require him for Test duty this year.

''I haven't firmed in my head which way we'll go,'' McKenzie said at the launch of the 2014 Super Rugby season in Sydney.

''Ben knows his future is elsewhere. My job is to understand his situation. We have to win Test matches but by the same token we've got a finite situation [of available players for selection].

''I need to be looking at all the alternatives. Nothing has really changed for me at the moment, we'll work out [whether Mowen is needed] closer to the time.''

The deal, which the ARU is reluctant to make public because it fears such an agreement could set a precedent, recognises that Mowen's seven years of service to Australian rugby warrant an October release.

A move offshore any earlier than that would depend on the state of Australia's back-row stocks.

Rebels captain Scott Higginbotham and Waratahs No.8 Wycliff Palu are widely tipped to be Mowen's chief challengers for selection. Both players were injured last year.

Larkham, a decorated former Test five-eighth who played in teams captained by John Eales, George Gregan and Stirling Mortlock, said Mowen would leave a void that would be difficult to fill.

''There's two issues, I guess, the issue of him in the back row and who do we get who will have his experience and knowledge in the back row, and that will be a work in progress,'' Larkham said.

''The other thing is just his leadership. I haven't been involved with a better leader than Benny in my playing or coaching days - and I've been with a few good leaders.

''He's tremendous in terms of his presence and message to the team, he is always spot on. So that's going to be a bit of a void.''

The ARU has treated players on a case-by-case basis in the past but has also found the standard December 31 release useful to cling to in turbulent times.

Former Test stalwarts Berrick Barnes and Drew Mitchell were released at the end of Super Rugby last year.

But former NSW powerhouse Sitaleki Timani, who will likely welcome Mowen as a teammate in France later this year, was forced to play on throughout the Rugby Championship and the Wallabies northern spring tour when Australia's stocks of second-rowers plummeted.

Mowen, who made his Test debut last year before being handed the captaincy in the middle of a difficult first season for McKenzie, announced his decision to quit Test rugby in January.

It is understood, however, that contract negotiations had started as far back as June.

There was speculation the 29-year-old had threatened to pull the pin on the Brumbies this season if the ARU did not relax its policy on early releases.

Mowen denied these reports.

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Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CRU 10 vs REB 20 Report Stats
BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
LIO 8 vs HUR 22 Stats
BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
SHA 29 vs CHT 35 Stats
BUL 17 vs STO 29 Stats
WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
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Round 2
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Stats
REB 28 vs WAR 38 Stats
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
BUL 13 vs HUR 17 Stats
HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Stats
RED 18 vs FOR 6 Stats
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
STO 27 vs BLU 16 Stats
SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Stats
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Round 3
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
HIG 20 vs RED 13 Stats
FOR vs HUR 22:00nib Stadium
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CHT vs BLU 04:10FSS
CHF vs CRU 17:35WS
REB vs BRU 19:40AAMI
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL vs SHA 02:05Loftus Versfeld
LIO vs STO 04:10Emirates Airlines Park
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs HIG 17:35WS
BRU vs FOR 19:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
BLU vs LIO 17:35QBE Stadium
RED vs WAR 19:40SS
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHT vs BUL 02:05FSS
STO vs SHA 04:10DHL Newlands
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Round 5
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs BLU 17:35FMG Stadium
FOR vs REB 22:00nib Stadium
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU vs LIO 14:30AMI
HIG vs WAR 17:35FBS
RED vs BRU 19:40SS
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
STO vs CHF 00:00DHL Newlands
CHT vs SHA 02:05FSS
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Round 6
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
HIG vs HUR 17:35FBS
REB vs LIO 19:40AAMI
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
CRU vs CHT 17:35AMI
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
BUL vs FOR 02:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs CHF 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
WAR vs BRU 16:05AS
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Round 7
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs REB 17:35WS
RED vs LIO 20:00SS
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs CHT 14:30WS
HIG vs STO 17:35FBS
WAR vs BLU 19:40AS
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
SHA vs FOR 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
BUL vs CRU 04:10Loftus Versfeld
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Round 8
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
HUR vs STO 18:35WS
REB vs RED 20:40AAMI
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
CHF vs BLU 18:35WS
BRU vs CHT 20:40GIO Stadium
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
SHA vs CRU 01:00Growthpoint Kings Park
LIO vs BUL 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
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Round 9
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BRU 18:35EP
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HIG 18:35AMI
WAR vs STO 20:40AS
FOR vs CHT 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
BUL vs RED 00:00Loftus Versfeld
LIO vs SHA 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
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Round 10
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs CHF 18:35AMI
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
HUR vs WAR 15:30WS
HIG vs BLU 18:35FBS
BRU vs REB 20:40GIO Stadium
FOR vs STO 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
SHA vs BUL 02:05Growthpoint Kings Park
CHT vs RED 04:10FSS
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Round 11
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
CHF vs FOR 18:35WS
BRU vs HIG 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
CRU vs BLU 18:35AMI
WAR vs REB 20:40ANZ
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
LIO vs CHT 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BUL 04:10DHL Newlands
RED vs HUR 17:05SS
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Round 12
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
HIG vs SHA 18:35FBS
BRU vs WAR 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs FOR 16:30EP
HUR vs CRU 18:35WS
REB vs CHF 20:40AAMI
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs STO 02:05FSS
BUL vs LIO 04:10Loftus Versfeld
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Round 13
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs RED 18:35AMI
REB vs BLU 20:40AAMI
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs SHA 18:35WS
FOR vs WAR 20:40nib Stadium
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs HIG 00:00Emirates Airlines Park
STO vs BRU 02:05DHL Newlands
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Round 14
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs BUL 18:35EP
RED vs REB 20:40SS
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
HUR vs CHF 18:35WS
WAR vs SHA 20:40AS
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
LIO vs BRU 02:05Emirates Airlines Park
CHT vs HIG 04:10FSS
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Round 15
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
CHF vs BUL 18:35Rotorua International Stadium
RED vs SHA 20:40SS
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HUR 18:35Emirates Airlines Park
WAR vs CRU 20:40ANZ
FOR vs HIG 22:45nib Stadium
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
CHT vs LIO 02:05FSS
STO vs REB 04:10DHL Newlands
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Round 16
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CRU vs HUR 18:35Trafalgar Park
BRU vs BUL 20:40GIO Stadium
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
SHA vs REB 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
HIG vs CHF 18:35Rugby Park
FOR vs RED 20:40nib Stadium
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
STO vs CHT 02:05DHL Newlands
LIO vs WAR 04:10Emirates Airlines Park
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Round 17
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
HUR vs HIG 18:35McLean Park
FOR vs BRU 22:00nib Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
REB vs BUL 16:30AAMI
BLU vs CRU 18:35EP
RED vs CHF 20:40SS
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
CHT vs WAR 00:00FSS
STO vs LIO 02:05DHL Newlands
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Round 18
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
BLU vs HIG 18:35EP
REB vs FOR 20:40AAMI
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
BRU vs CRU 16:30GIO Stadium
CHF vs HUR 18:35Yarrow Stadium
WAR vs RED 20:40AS
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
BUL vs CHT 02:05Loftus Versfeld
SHA vs STO 04:10Growthpoint Kings Park
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Round 19
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
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Round 20
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
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Round 21
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
7 vs 7 10:00
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Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Brumbies 2 1 1 0 42 6
Hurricanes 2 2 0 0 18 8
Stormers 2 2 0 0 23 8
Chiefs 2 2 0 0 7 8
Rebels 2 1 1 0 0 5
Sharks 2 1 1 0 11 6
Cheetahs 1 1 0 0 6 5
Force 2 1 1 0 0 5
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