Ewen McKenzie has appointed hard-nosed hooker Stephen Moore as the man to lead the Wallabies through to next year’s World Cup
Stephen Moore isn’t the most popular Wallabies teammate, but that’s much the reason why Ewen McKenzie has stopped his captaincy roundabout with the stalwart hooker.
The hard-nosed attitude which has rankled some is also why the long-time standards-bearer has been named the man to lead Australia through to next year’s World Cup.
“People always say it’s easier to be liked than it is to be respected,” Moore admitted on Monday.
Although he’s been in leadership groups at the Queensland Reds, Brumbies and Wallabies, Saturday night against France will be the first time the 31-year-old has skippered a professional team.
Moore admits his abrasive approach could well be the reason the honour’s never been bestowed before but there’s no way he’s changing as he plans to lead Australia back to the top.
“We’re currently third in the world so if we want to get to No.1 we need to change things a little bit across a number of different areas,” he said.
“Ultimately we have to do things better and that’s what I’ll be concerned with.”
In Moore, former front-rower McKenzie sees a man much like himself. One driven by performance and a desire to drive a positive team culture, rather than popularity.
The 91-Test hooker was among the loudest voices behind the scenes and in public about problems last year when James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale’s off-field misdemeanours were a major distraction.
He was also in the background when McKenzie stood down six players for one Test on the Spring Tour and reprimanded nine others for a big night out in Dublin.
“It (2013) was a tough period, there’s no doubt,” Moore said. “We had to deal with some off-field issues and that was a real challenge for the group but I think we have started this season with a fresh mentality.
“I’ve always tried to stand up for what is right. You’re not always going to get agreement across a group of players, that’s part of being a team and making it work.”
While being a passionate and tough taskmaster, the Saudi Arabian-born rake did show his emotional side on Monday by fighting back tears when he thanked his Irish-born mother Maureen.
Moore is the fourth skipper McKenzie has chosen in just 12 games and 10 months as national coach but the revolving door has now been slammed shut.
The coach confirmed Moore and vice-captains Michael Hooper and Adam Ashley-Cooper would be long-term leaders so long as they stay on the field.
In doing so, McKenzie severed ties with his old Queensland generals James Horwill and Will Genia who are under pressure to keep their Test starting jerseys.
McKenzie will on Tuesday announce his side for the opening Test at Suncorp Stadium with most interest surrounding the Reds pair and the choice of Bernard Foley or Kurtley Beale at five-eighth.