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'Shattered' Stephen Moore leaves void in Wallabies

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Wallabies defeat France in Test opener

Australia beat France 50-23 in their Test opener at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

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The Wallabies did not simply lose their captain and starting hooker on Saturday night, they lost the leader of their cultural revival.

As Ewen McKenzie digested the loss of Stephen Moore for at least the rest of the year, and second-rower Sam Carter for the series (ankle), the footballing implications were only part of the equation.

Carter's toughness – the debutant incurred the syndesmosis in the seventh minute but played out the match in a man of the match performance – is something McKenzie is keen to keep around.

Australian captain Stephen Moore (centre, left) sustains a knee injury whilst tackling French flanker Bernard le Roux (centre).

Australian captain Stephen Moore (centre, left) sustains a knee injury whilst tackling French flanker Bernard le Roux (centre). Photo: AFP

Moore, meanwhile, had made an immediate and tangible impact on the Test side as captain and McKenzie was delighted.

He had seized upon a burgeoning confidence in the squad and galvanised a group that appeared, finally, to have had enough of coming second, third, everything but first.

"It was a massive week for him," McKenzie said on Sunday.

"I thought he'd done a brilliant job even prior to this week. He and I had worked pretty well. I was pleased with the progress we were making off the field.

"It leaves a bit of a void, because we had a lot of stuff in the pipeline and his priorities now change to rehabilitation and getting back, and we have to keep playing."

It is not all bad. The Wallabies' seven-try rout of a tired French side, all but five minutes of it executed without Moore on the field, was as encouraging a start to a season as any in recent years.

But the 91-Test Trojan's leadership was a cornerstone of a long-term project to build a Wallabies side capable of challenging for next year's World Cup.

McKenzie stopped short of confirming Michael Hooper as Moore's replacement, despite another superhuman effort and a seamless step into the captaincy role at Suncorp Stadium.

The Australian coach likes to take one step at a time and will think hard about the right leadership mix to augment Hooper's energy with some battle-hardened maturity.

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said Moore's influence would be missed.

"They turned a corner in Europe last year and you look at the body language from Saturday night, it's a really tight group at the moment," Larkham said.

"The team itself is in a healthy state and he is a massive part of that new culture, driving standards on and off the field."

Moore will undergo surgery on Monday. He is a mentally tough character but was predictably gutted on Sunday.

"There's nothing you can say, you go into the time warp required for it to mend," McKenzie said.

"The surgical side becomes the priority and you get on with it. He's a pragmatic guy but emotionally . . .  he was obviously shattered."

Replacement hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau was immense after his captain was forced off in the fifth minute. The Wallabies did not drop a line out and were tirelessly physical.

McKenzie will most likely choose from Queensland hookers Saia Fainga'a and James Hanson to play back up to Polota-Nau and Nathan Charles. Both have Test experience.

Moore's absence will be felt in the longer term, perhaps in those seminal moments when games against better prepared sides hang in the balance.

But a look at Wycliff Palu's resurgence this season points to a silver lining for the Wallabies. Palu was injured in the Waratahs' final few games and missed the rest of the Test season last year.

He has emerged in the best shape and form of his career thanks to a long run into Super Rugby this year and the Waratahs' excellent high-performance program.

Larkham said the same could happen with Moore, presenting an excellent opportunity to freshen up a player who will be a key weapon in the Wallabies' World Cup campaign.

"It's a long road back but he's got some good guys to work with down at the Brumbies and I look back and think about some of the seasons we had when we'd been given a full pre-season," he said.

"It could be a blessing in disguise leading into the World Cup. It is a massive indicator for the season, how well they feel coming into it. You saw the same with Pat McCabe and [Brumbies back] Robbie Coleman."

8 comments so far

  • Commiserations to Moore. I hope they keep him on as defacto captain. His influence is obviously terrific.

    Date and time
    June 08, 2014, 8:22PM
    • Ewen, please don't let Moore disappear off into rehab-land. We know he has to recover and that is the top priority, but the moment is somewhat mobile again, please keep him around the test team environment as captain. The replacement captain should be anointed as "on-field" captain with Moore remaining the official Wallabies captain. This is a special situation and Moore needs to remains central to the team throughout 2014-15. He should continue to drive the culture, communication, media and everything but play. Just like when Richie is out, he is still undeniably the All Black captain. I hope Moore is sitting by your side in the box soon. You are on to a good thing, but let this injury distract you.

      Hong Kong
      Date and time
      June 09, 2014, 10:30AM
  • There is no reason why Moore can't continue in his leadership roll off field .
    Not one Red but two , both tried before , in line for the reserve hookers spot . This spot should be used to develop someone , there must be another young bloke who can take us forward. These two are flat tyres and passed their use by date . If we are desperate we can always call on one of them later.

    The Bush
    Date and time
    June 09, 2014, 8:29AM
    • @Mankad completely agree!!! However I think the next kid of the rank is silva silva from the brumbies, but he's injured. He played out of this skin last year in the brumbies game against the British and Irish lions.

      The problem though is he's also injured.

      I think Hanson is going to be the safest option. But we're doomed if TPN continues with his cannon balling and gets injured!!!!! No more backups.

      Wishing Stephen Moore a speedy recovery!!!!

      Now on the the captain issue..... Please don't make Michael Hooper captain!!!! David Pocock will be the Wallabies captain once he's back and therefore the starting number 7. Problem though is there is no one left. Makes Ben Mowens decision to leave even bigger

      Date and time
      June 09, 2014, 9:39AM
    • @dave101 are you serious?! Hooper is the form open side anywhere in the world right now. As good as Pocock has been coming back from 2 knee reconstructions and with Hooper now having the great experience that he does I don't think he will regain his starting spot - make Hooper captain, Australian rugby has a bright future and they need a talented long term leader

      Hooper is the future
      Date and time
      June 09, 2014, 12:10PM
  • What a total bummer..!!!
    Squeak is our most consistent forward at present.
    Polota-Nau should fill the gap well (as we saw on Sat night) long as he keeps throwing in straight.

    Jonny Thunder
    The big smoke
    Date and time
    June 09, 2014, 10:00AM
    • It was terrible to lose Moore and he can certainly have a role off-field, but any sporting team needs a full-time captain on and off the field. Also, we should not make the mistake of seeing poor performance in every player who happens to be in a poor performing team (i.e. the reds). Look at individual performances. So far that has been done and this Australian team has been the best selected one in a long time, selected primarily on form. Just look at the dropping of Genia,and if Cooper had have been fit one would hope he would have gone too (about time!). Saia and Hanson are 2 well-performed No. 2's and deserve their chance.

      Date and time
      June 09, 2014, 10:26AM
      • What is it about Brumbies players, Pocock and now Moore, only lasting a couple of minutes when given the ultimate accolade for any Australian Rugby player.

        They don't seem to see out the first 5 minutes of their first test as captain.

        As devastating for Moore as it was for Pocock - two great players that have had the fickle finger of fate pointed at them.

        On the plus side, 100% for sure they will both be back stronger than ever.

        Things are looking good

        Date and time
        June 09, 2014, 1:19PM

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