No hard feelings ... Ben Mowen and James Horwill at the Super Rugby season launch on Wednesday. Photo: Brendan Esposito
Deposed Wallabies skipper James Horwill has declared there's no bad blood between himself and his Test captain replacement Ben Mowen, as the duo prepares for a blockbuster Super Rugby contest next week.
Mowen is adamant the pair ''pushed aside'' any potential tension to form a leadership combination when Horwill was axed as the Test captain last year.
Mowen also revealed the Brumbies have set a goal to win the Super Rugby championship in Canberra this season.
Mowen and Horwill will go head to head in what looms as an explosive Super Rugby season opener when the ACT Brumbies play the Queensland Reds at Canberra Stadium on February 22.
They have been friends since they were teenagers, but a Wallabies' leadership upheaval four months ago threatened to put pressure on the pair when international rookie Mowen was elevated ahead of Horwill.
''I don't think the leadership swap changed anything, my focus was always to do anything possible to help the team win,'' Horwill said at the Super Rugby launch on Wednesday.
''Whether I've got the captaincy or not, my focus has been playing my role. It didn't change anything … there's no bad blood there at all.''
Mowen will quit Australian rugby at the end of the season to play in France.
It opens the door for Reds captain Horwill to reclaim his place as Wallabies leader, but he is in a tussle with Will Genia, Quade Cooper and David Pocock.
Mowen and Horwill were under-15s teammates at the Reds before their careers went in different directions.
''Kev [Horwill] has a huge role in the Wallabies team whether he's got the captaincy next to his name or not,'' Mowen said.
''Being captain isn't about one bloke doing the job. It's about using the best people available. You need him to be that big gregarious character he is … we sat together and said whatever we need from each other, let's do it. Sometimes it gets made into something bigger, but we've got a great friendship and working relationship, everything has been pushed aside.''
The Brumbies usurped the Reds as Australia's best team last season. The two title contenders will renew their intense rivalry when the Super Rugby season begins next week.
The Mowen-Horwill captaincy swap will add extra spice to an already enticing battle.
Reds scrum-half Genia will take on understudy Nic White, returning superstar Pocock will lock horns with Wallabies hopeful Liam Gill and Test playmakers Cooper and Matt Toomua will get a chance to stake their claim for the Australian five-eighth role.
The Brumbies lost the Super Rugby grand final last season after travelling 35,000 kilometres in a month to end their campaign. The travel took its toll and Mowen said the Brumbies were aiming for a top-two finish to reduce their travel load and give them a chance to play a grand final in Canberra.
''We have focused on why we had to travel a lot at the end of the season … it's because we lost some round games,'' Mowen said.
''A one-point loss in round one can cost you six months later. We're not focused on the finals, we're focused on if we're going to get there, we do everything to make sure it's the right path.
''Our goal is to definitely win [the Super Rugby championship] and to do it in Canberra.''