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Stephen Moore's 'time has come' as Wallabies captain: John Connolly

Canberra Times logo Canberra Times 26/05/2014 Chris Dutton
Brumbies hooker Stephen Moore should be the Wallabies' next captain, according to former Test coach John Connolly. © Melissa Adams Brumbies hooker Stephen Moore should be the Wallabies' next captain, according to former Test coach John Connolly.

Former Test coach John Connolly is adamant ACT Brumbies hooker Stephen Moore "ticks all the boxes" to be the new Wallabies captain, revealing he almost made Moore Australia's captain for the 2007 World Cup. 

Moore is the front-runner for the Wallabies captaincy job as coach Ewen McKenzie plans to replace outgoing leader Ben Mowen in the three Test series against France next month.

NSW Waratahs star Michael Hooper and Queensland duo Will Genia and James Horwill are also in contention, but 91-Test stalwart Moore is tipped to be anointed skipper when the Test squad assembles on Sunday.

Connolly described Moore's manner as "John Eales-ish" and said his experience made him the perfect candidate to take the reins.

In fact, Connolly said he almost opted for a then 22-year-old Moore instead of Brumbies and Wallabies great Stirling Mortlock to lead Australia's World Cup campaign seven years ago.

"Stirling got the job, but Stephen Moore and Matt Giteau were right in contention. It was a very close call and Stephen Moore ticks all the boxes as captain for me," Connolly said.

"I think it would be a massive ask for a young guy like Hooper to take over now. I like Genia as a captain, but with how Queensland is going makes it hard for him and Horwill.

"I'd be very surprised if Stephen Moore wasn't the Wallabies captain. It would be a big step for Hooper. Hooper's time will come, but I think Moore is clearly the best option."

Hooper would become the youngest Wallabies captain in almost 70 years if he wins the battle.

Moore is unfazed by the debate and is focused only on the Brumbies' season until the Wallabies squad goes into camp.

The 31-year-old made his Test debut in 2005 and has been a mainstay of the team ever since.

When Connolly was choosing a new leader in 2006, a relatively raw Moore was a surprise option.

"We wanted to build a year out from the [2007] World Cup ... Giteau was a bit Hooper-ish at the time and Stephen Moore was young too," Connolly said.

"Stirling had a presence on the field and players wanted to play with him, he got the nod.

"Captains have to work as hard off the field as they do on it, Stephen Moore would do that. He's John Eales-ish in his manner, he has respect from other players on and off the field. Stephen's time has come."

Moore and the Brumbies returned to Canberra on Sunday night after a horror two-game tour of South Africa.

Their Super Rugby finals hopes are dangling by a thread after losing games to the Free State Cheetahs and the Pretoria Bulls.

They play the Melbourne Rebels at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night in a must-win contest if the Brumbies want to stay in the hunt.

The Brumbies could rise back to the top of the Australian conference this week if the Waratahs and Western Force lose their respective matches against New Zealand opponents.

The Brumbies slipped to seventh after their 21-point loss to the Bulls, dropping out of the Super Rugby top six for just the third time since the start of the 2012 campaign.

In the past month the Brumbies have travelled to Christchurch, Bloemfontein, Pretoria and now back to Canberra.

But Connolly said it was premature to write-off last year's grand finalists.

"If push comes to shove in the finals, the Brumbies will be a tough team. As long as they make the finals, they will be competitive," Connolly said.

"They'd be disappointed if they didn't get into the finals. They can still be a threat, there's no doubt.

"Teams tend to know how other teams play now and know what they're walking into. But [coaches] Stephen Larkham and Laurie Fisher are smart enough, they might have to tinker but they will be fine."

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