Rugby | Moore's leadership qualities helping Oz

Stephen Moore (Gallo Images)

London – When the newly appointed Australia coach Michael Cheika was hatching his plans for the Rugby World Cup, he knew one of his most important appointments would be choosing the right captain.

Cheika wanted a strong leader who had the respect of all his team mates and could drive the cultural changes he wanted to bring into the squad.

There was no shortage of candidates, with more than half a dozen different players having skippered the Wallabies in recent years, but he went back to the future and chose Stephen Moore.

Moore had already been anointed as Australian captain in 2014 by former coach Ewen McKenzie but lasted less than three minutes in the job, suffering a season-ending knee injury on his captaincy debut.

When he returned in 2015, the Wallabies had a new coach, with new ideas, but Cheika saw in Moore all the qualities he wanted for his skipper so he reappointed him.

“Stephen is not only a player who leads by example on the field, but he is a man who exemplifies the qualities of a Wallabies captain,” Cheika said after choosing him.

“It is a testament to his character that he has been able to overcome a setback and put himself in a position to lead his country again.”

If the Wallabies beat New Zealand in Saturday’s final at Twickenham, Moore will join Nick Farr-Jones and John Eales as the third Australian captain to be presented with the William Webb Ellis Trophy though he differs from his predecessors.

While Farr-Jones, a chirpy scrumhalf, and Eales, a supremely athletic lock, were both charismatic figures who were earmarked to lead Australia from the moment they burst on to the world stage, Moore’s rise to the captaincy has been slower.

Born in Saudi Arabia, where his Irish parents were working at the time, Moore is an unmistakable presence on the pitch. With his clean-shaven head and bent nose, he is a throwback to an era when players did their talking on the field and shunned the spotlight off it.

A strong scrummager and accurate thrower of the ball at lineouts, he made his test debut in 2005 and went to his first World Cup in 2007 but didn’t cement his place as Australia’s first-choice hooker until 2008.

The following year he left Queensland and moved to Canberra where he was appointed captain of the Brumbies and played at a second World Cup in 2011.

Australia finished third in 2011 but all was not well within the Wallaby camp with reports of disunity amongst the players under then coach Robbie Deans.

Moore began to emerge as a potential captain after pushing for a stronger team culture but had to wait a few more years before he got the top job.

Now 32, with more than 100 test appearances under his belt, Moore has adopted a collaborative approach to the captaincy, seeing himself more as a leader of leaders, taking advice from the other senior players in the team and empowering them to lead as well.

“That’s been important right from the start,” he told a news conference in the build-up to the World Cup final.

“I think I’ve tapped into all those guys and they’ve all been terrific in the way they’ve conducted themselves.

“There’s a lot of leadership in the group and we’ve seen that in our game so far and we’re going to need that in our game on Saturday.”

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