Following Ben Mowen’s publicised intention to leave Australian Rugby after 2014, the Wallabies face yet another threat to their World Cup preparations. Although their tenure thus far under coach Ewen McKenzie has been statistically poor, the recent Autumn internationals saw a vastly improved set piece, an attacking masterclass spearheaded by wunderkind Israel Folau and most importantly, four wins on the trot for the first time since 2008. Mowen’s announcement however is a dizzying blow to Australian rugby. Whilst not yet a world class player, Mowen has displayed maturity and leadership skills far beyond his 15 Test Caps and warrants respect as captain of the resurgent Wallabies. Thus, McKenzie must choose his captain wisely this year, as his decision will shape the Wallabies prospects for World Cup glory.
1. James Horwill:
Despite a generally poor 2013 season, including his ignominious demotion as Wallabies skipper, Horwill found form in the latter half of the Autumn internationals and remains a world-class player when in form. Under his captaincy, the Wallabies have previously claimed the Mandela Plate (RSA), the Cook Cup, and most importantly, the Rugby Championship in 2011. An inspirational and uncompromising player, Horwill stands as a strong candidate for the 2014 captaincy.
2. Will Genia:
Similarly to Horwill, Genia slumped from superstardom in 2013 as the All Blacks and Springboks began to nullify his electrifying running game, culminating in his consequent disposition from the starting lineup against Argentina. Nevertheless, Genia remains the benchmark for the modern no.9 and has proven his captaincy credentials with both the Queensland Reds and the Wallabies. Could Will Genia be the next George Gregan?
3. David Pocock:
Arguably the best pilferer and ruck technician in world rugby, ex-captain Pocock has been plagued by a string of injuries since 2011 and consequently dethroned by the rise of Australian star Michael Hooper. However, Pocock’s influence as a “follow-me” leader and ability to singlehandedly stifle even the most enterprising attack positions him strongly for both his coveted No.7 jersey and the captaincy.
4. Stephen Moore:
Undoubtedly the most consistent Australian player in recent memory, Moore’s phenomenal Autumn Tour and dogged determination have surely turned heads within the Wallabies camp. A rugged, stalwart hooker approaching his 100th Test, Moore shows no sign of slowing down and whilst it would be a bold administrative move to install him as captain, it would not be unwelcome. After all, if the Wallabies want consistency, who better to lead them?
5. Quade Cooper:
It is said that the mighty fall swiftly, but Quade Cooper’s magical resurgence under McKenzie has replaced the niggling arrogance and erratic play of previous years with attacking consistency, tactical nous and most crucially, maturity. After being named VC against England for the 2013 Cook Cup Test, Cooper’s game has matured and refined itself beyond belief without sacrificing attacking enterprise. Despite his limited captaincy experience, Cooper’s on-field heroics, closeness with McKenzie and seniority within the squad positions him as a dark horse for the 2014 Wallabies captaincy.
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