Mowen shock: Wallabies skipper puts family first

RUGBY UNION 

Wallabies captain Ben Mowen says contract negotiations with the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) didn't weigh into his shock decision to quit and head overseas.

Mowen stunned Australian rugby yesterday by announcing he was putting family first by pursuing a lucrative club deal in France after the 2014 season - turning his back on the chance to lead his country at the 2015 World Cup.

Mowen, who only made his Test debut against the British and Irish Lions in June, was promoted to Wallabies captain by new coach Ewen McKenzie on November's European tour at the expense of incumbent James Horwill.

However, as the cash-strapped ARU only provides contract top-up payments to players who played more than two years for the Wallabies, skipper Mowen's contract was substantially lower than some of his star teammates.

The 29-year-old had negotiated for a special concession to be made this year, as was done for code-hoppers like Israel Folau.

However, he said in Canberra yesterday that his decision to quit Australian rugby was not influenced by those talks.

"We were working along nicely and it got to the point before we even had to come to an agreement that I rang Ewen and said 'look, it's not going to be about money'," Mowen said.

"It's more about what is fitting with my motivation."

That motivation is Mowen's 18-month daughter Eleanor and his wife Lauren.

The Brumbies' skipper spent almost seven months away from them in his hectic 2013 season amid the heavy Super Rugby travel schedule followed by playing all of the Wallabies' Test season.

After the Brumbies' Super Rugby final against the Chiefs in August, Mowen spent 40 minutes with his daughter before he headed straight into Wallabies camp to prepare for the Rugby Championship.

While he wouldn't say which European club he's negotiating with, he believes rugby in the south of France will give him more time to spend with his young family.

"It was time at home at Christmas around the family where I thought, 'nah, at this stage, this is more important to me than trying to get to the World Cup'," he said.

Mowen said he'd considered leaving Australian rugby for the past six months, and had even had a brief chat to McKenzie about leaving after the Wallabies' final game of the season against Wales on November 30.

"Straight after the full-time siren, I informed him how I was feeling," he said.

"I'm lucky enough that I have a good relationship with Link [McKenzie] to do that. He was supportive and understood," he said.

Mowen said walking away from captaining the Wallabies in the 2015 World Cup had made the decision especially difficult.

"That would have been a great reward but I leave knowing there's great leadership littered throughout that group. Committing two years of travel just to get to that stage, I just couldn't do," he said.

"I am probably the first [Wallabies captain to be in this situation] but I'm also probably the first bloke to make his Test debut at 28 and retire at 29.

"It was short and sweet for a Test career. It's a hard decision. It took months, but I'm comfortable where I've come to and I'm proud of the contribution I've made."

McKenzie confirmed that Mowen's decision would make him ineligible for the 2015 World Cup.

"I've known Ben throughout his career and I've enjoyed watching him reach the pinnacle of our sport by representing Australia and leading the national team as captain," McKenzie said.

"He was in touch with me regularly throughout his decision-making process. He approached this decision in his usual style - with professionalism and diligence.

"It's obviously disappointing to lose a player of Ben's calibre but, after speaking to him about his personal priorities, we appreciate that he is making this decision based on what is right for him personally and professionally." 

AAP

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