Late-blooming Wallabies forward Ben Mowen’s amazing ride just gets better.
After playing just five Tests in his debut season of Test rugby, the 28-year-old has been named Australia’s vice-captain for Saturday night’s Rugby Championship clash with South Africa.
A costly hamstring injury to skipper James Horwill has seen Will Genia given the captaincy for the Suncorp Stadium encounter and Mowen promoted as deputy.
The No.8, who had consistently been overlooked by former coach Robbie Deans until this season, rates it an even bigger honour than gaining his first Test cap.
“It’s the proudest moment of my rugby career for sure,” Mowen said.
“I feel extremely privileged to be a part of this group, and then to get a responsibility like vice-captain it means the world to me.”
Virtually unwanted by the NSW Waratahs two seasons ago when they signed Rocky Elsom from the Brumbies, Mowen’s move to Canberra was the trigger for his rapid rise this year.
Brumbies coach Jake White stunned all and sundry when he named the recruit captain ahead of Wallabies front-rowers Stephen Moore and Ben Alexander before he’d made his ACT debut.
“It was a massive (surprise),” Mowen said. “I wasn’t expecting that at all and it’s a similar feeling to the one I have at the moment.
“It’s amazing when I look back at that decision (to leave NSW).
“I was enjoying my time at the Waratahs and they were a great bunch of guys. There were so many positives but the toughest thing was challenging myself outside that arena.
“Sometimes you just have to move out of your comfort zone and back yourself.”
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie also saw Mowen’s leadership attributes early on when he named him captain for his Waratahs debut in a trial against Queensland in 2008.
McKenzie said the Brisbane product’s captaincy experience, intellect and complimentary personality to Genia led to his promotion as vice-captain.
The Wallabies are aiming to keep intact their unbeaten record against the Springboks at Suncorp Stadium and also end the visitors’ current nine-Test winning streak.
Lineout caller Mowen said the biggest thing he’d learned in Test rugby was that every moment mattered.
“There are no small moments, everything counts and every moment could be the one that turns the tide and can win the Test.”
That was rammed home when Mowen was penalised for pulling back New Zealand lock Brodie Retallick in backplay in Wellington, which cost Australia a shot at penalty goal and a 9-7 lead.
Instead the All Blacks kicked their own three-pointer in a massive momentum shift on the way to a 27-16 result.
“It was a big lesson and I’m sure I’ve learned it.”