ARU negotiations weren't a factor - Ben Mowen
January 9, 2014
Ben Mowen will leave Australia after the Super Rugby season
Ben Mowen says contract negotiations with the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) didn't weigh into his decision to quit and head overseas.
The Brumbies and Wallabies captain stunned Australian rugby on Thursday, announcing he was putting family first by pursuing a lucrative club rugby deal in France after the 2014 season - and hence was turning his back on the chance to lead his country at Rugby World Cup 2015.
Mowen made his Test debut against the British & Irish Lions in June, and new coach Ewen McKenzie promoted him to Wallabies captain at the expense of incumbent James Horwill on the end-of-year tour of Europe. But the cash-strapped union provides top-up contract payments only to players who have played more than two years for the Wallabies, so Mowen's contract was substantially lower than some of his star team-mates.
Mowen, 29, had been negotiating for a special concession to be made this year, as has been awarded to code-hoppers such as Israel Folau, but he said in Canberra on Thursday 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-ol 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 the Wallabies' Test season. Mowen spent just 40 minutes with his daughter after the Brumbies' Super Rugby final against the Chiefs in August, before heading straight into Wallabies camp to prepare for The Rugby Championship.
Mowen wouldn't name the European club with which he's negotiating, but he believes rugby in the south of France will give him more time to spend with his young family.
"It was just 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 been considering 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 2013 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 really good relationship with Link [McKenzie] to do that. And he was really supportive and understood."
Mowen said the prospect of walking away from captaining the Wallabies in the 2015 World Cup made the decision especially difficult.
"That would have been a great reward," he said. "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."
McKenzie confirmed Mowen's decision would make him ineligible for selection for the 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 in an ARU statement.
"He has been in touch with me regularly throughout his decision-making process, and he's 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."