World Cup memories inspire new Aussie skipper

Ben Mowen says he set his heart on playing the English when he was a young buck growing up

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 November, 2013, 12:21pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 November, 2013, 12:23pm

Australia captain Ben Mowen hopes he’ll only be crying tears of joy at Twickenham on Saturday when the Wallabies face England a decade on from the teams’ epic World Cup final clash.

England’s extra-time 20-17 victory over the Wallabies in Sydney in 2003 saw them become the first, and so far only, northern hemisphere nation to lift the World Cup.

And for a teenage Mowen that loss, sealed by Jonny Wilkinson’s drop-goal, was tough to take.

“Growing up I watched the England 2003 game. For us to go down in the final – I remember sitting there with a few tears in my eyes at a mate’s house watching that happen,” Mowen said.

“I was 18 in 2003 so I was going to all the pool games in Brisbane and really enjoyed that time.

“I thought the two best sides were in the final and that was just an amazing game. I think traditionally Australia and England bring out the best in each other.”

Saturday’s match will be Mowen’s first international against England, with the Brumbies skipper – he replaced James Horwill as Australia captain having deputised for him in September’s win over Argentina in Perth – only having made his test debut against the British and Irish Lions in June.

“I have had my eyes set on playing the English since I was a young buck growing up,” said Mowen. “For me personally to be here in that game is very special.”

Australia coach Ewen McKenzie knows what it’s like to win a World Cup final at Twickenham, with the former prop, who replaced New Zealander Robbie Deans after the Lions series, a member of the Wallaby side that beat England in the climax of the 1991 tournament.

“Yeah, he never shuts up about it,” joked Mowen. “It is great to have a coach who is a former player and a former player of a real golden era of Australian rugby.”

Mowen said Australia would try to exploit England being without lineout chief Geoff Parling after the lock suffered a concussion injury in training.

Mowen, Australia’s line-out ‘caller’, came up against the Leicester man during the Lions’ 2-1 series win and was in no doubt of his quality.

“I think losing Geoff Parling, he’s a guy I’ve got huge respect for, in terms of his playing and his line-out direction, to lose a real general of the line-out, is difficult to replace. That’ll be an area where we’ve got to make sure we squeeze quite hard.”

England and Australia have been drawn together in the same pool for the 2015 World Cup in England and Red Rose backs coach Andy Farrell, also a member of the Lions’ backroom staff, was keen to strike an early blow following last year’s 20-14 Twickenham loss to the Wallabies.

“Putting in a great performance that we’re capable of will naturally surprise them,” Farrell said. “In the World Cup it’s going to be knockout football. You have got to be ready.”