Captaincy material: New Wallabies skipper Ben Mowen is looking forward to the challenge. Photo: Getty Images
New Wallabies captain Ben Mowen is the ''right guy at the right time'' to lead the team out of a slump and coach Ewen McKenzie has backed his ''demanding'' leadership to deliver a Test victory on Saturday night.
Mowen was installed as captain while halfback Will Genia was dumped to the Wallabies bench on Wednesday as McKenzie searches for a spark to end a four-match losing streak. In a sign that no one is safe in the Wallabies line-up, McKenzie axed Genia in the hope it will motivate him to rediscover his world-class form.
That leaves six-Test Wallaby Mowen as the man in charge of resurrecting the Wallabies' Rugby Championship campaign. It's a remarkable turnaround from the player, who was on the outer with the Waratahs in 2011 and appeared unlikely to ever play for Australia.
Wallabies team to face Argentina
James Slipper. Photo: Getty Images
''There would have been a time when [Mowen] thought he was going nowhere, that he was just treading water in Australian rugby,'' McKenzie said. ''Things change. He's got his own style of leadership, he's very definite about things. Some of those things will give us an outcome. He's the right guy at the right time.''
With Genia and regular captain James Horwill (hamstring) out, Adam Ashley-Cooper will step up as vice-captain. McKenzie said dropping Genia was about making ''hard decisions'' to try to get the win the Wallabies desperately crave. McKenzie has lost all three matches as Wallabies coach since taking over from Robbie Deans in July.
''Will has responded already. It's been a difficult week for him but he's out there working hard … ultimately we'll get an outcome on both fronts - find a new Test standard player and Will will push himself to find that world-class form,'' McKenzie said. ''We know he's a world-class player, he just has to find a couple of per cent there. World-class players are that way for a reason - they're super competitive, so he'll accept the competition and then do something about it. We have to keep looking for things to spark the team up to get an outcome. We're not in the business of hoping things get better.''
McKenzie has made four changes to his 23-man squad as the Wallabies prepare to take on Argentina in Perth. Nic White replaces Genia at halfback and Ben Alexander returns to the starting XV as the tight-head prop. Giant forward Sitaleki Timani has been added to the bench to add muscle after the Wallabies were bashed last weekend and outside back Tevita Kuridrani is back on the reserves list.
Mowen has transformed his career since joining the Brumbies at the start of last year and made his Test debut in June. The former Waratah and Queensland Red has found his feet at the Brumbies and led the team into the Super Rugby final last month.
At the start of the season and seemingly on the outer with Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, Mowen contemplated leaving Australian rugby to sign a lucrative contract in Japan. But he decided to stay to chase his Wallabies dream and it is paying dividends. He played all three Tests against the British and Irish Lions and has cemented his place in the forward pack.
White said Brumbies captain Mowen would ask the team to ''do the shitters'' in the match against Argentina. ''The shitters'' are the jobs no one wants to do, but are required to win games. ''He sets high standards, and if you don't meet them he gets pretty angry,'' White said. ''He'll want the blokes to do the shitters. He says what he's going to do, then does it and expects everyone to follow.
''Ben's got a very clear idea of how things should be done and he gets people to buy into those things. It's easy to buy into because he makes it logical. He's passionate and you know everything he does is to get the best for the team.''