Ready for the challenge: Brumbies captain Ben Mowen. Photo: Melissa Adams
If anyone had a reason to celebrate, it was Brumbies captain Ben Mowen, having helped rebuild his club into a Super Rugby grand finalist and making his Wallabies debut against the British and Irish Lions. But rather than party hard at the Brumbies Ball, where he was named best forward, Mowen took it easy and drove home at midnight.
That's how important being at his peak for the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night is for Mowen. He flew to Sydney to rejoin the Wallabies camp on Sunday and wants to be in peak condition if new coach Ewen McKenzie picks him to face the world champions.
''I didn't want to leave any stone unturned in my preparation … I'm just so excited about this new challenge, and obviously it doesn't come any bigger than the world champions and getting to play them for the chance to hold the Bledisloe Cup,'' Mowen said.
Focused: Ben Mowen. Photo: Graham Tidy
Since moving to Canberra, Mowen's development has matched that of the Brumbies. He's gone from a surprise selection as captain to leading the club out of the doldrums.
It caught the eye of former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans and has also been noticed by McKenzie. Now Mowen wants a part of the Wallabies' own emergence from the Bledisloe Cup wilderness. The All Blacks have held the prized trophy since 2003 and haven't looked like relinquishing their grip. Mowen, and Australia, want that to change.
''I've been lucky enough to be involved in two shifts in culture, in the last couple of years with the Brumbies and now the Wallabies starting under a new coach,'' he said.
McKenzie hasn't told Mowen where he sits in his thinking, which is exactly how the player wants it. It removes the chance for complacency and forces him to work as hard as possible to earn his fourth Test cap. Mowen comes into the first Test with just one weekend off after the Super Rugby season. ''I think that's a bit of an advantage,'' he said.