Mowen: Underdog status 'a bunch of crap'
March 14, 2014
Ben Mowen claims he was not the Dublin whistle-blower © Getty Images
The New South Wales Waratahs might be angling hard for underdog status, but as far as Brumbies skipper Ben Mowen is concerned, favouritism is all "a bunch of crap". The fierce rivals meet at Canberra Stadium for the blockbuster Super Rugby derby on Saturday night with both sides boasting some serious momentum.
Despite a shaky start to the season against Queensland Reds, last year's finalists the Brumbies rebounded with a convincing win against Western Force in Perth before beating the Hurricanes with a 29-21 bonus point win in Wellington.
The Waratahs, on the other hand, are flourishing in their second season under coach Michael Cheika, and they're undefeated with bonus-point wins against both the Force and Reds. Cheika was quick to claim underdog status earlier in the week by saying the Brumbies were the best Australian side in the competition. But Mowen refused to buy into that sort of talk on Friday, saying it was all just media hype.
"Whether we're the favourite or we're not - it's a bunch of crap, it doesn't matter," he said. "Two sides will rock up, they're both in form, they're both with equal amounts of experience across the park."
Mowen also addressed the Dublin dobbing incident that has featured heavily in the build up to the clash. There have been reports that Waratahs players in the Wallabies squad believe Mowen was responsible for alerting national coach Ewen McKenzie over a drinking session that saw 15 players - eight of whom were Waratahs - disciplined. Mowen denies the rumours, and said he was disappointed to see them surface before the big derby.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't offended by that, I certainly was," he said. "But short of the disappointment earlier in the week, I haven't given it a whole lot of thought, there's too many challenges in and around this game as it is."
One of those challenges for the Brumbies will be stifling Waratahs No.15 Israel Folau, who has scored five tries in the first two matches this season. But before the ball goes out wide to Izzy and co, Cheika knows his side will have to win a huge battle up front.
The entire Waratahs forward pack boasts international experience, while five Brumbies forwards have earned a cap for Australia - one down from usual after star flanker David Pocock's season-ending injury two weeks ago.
"You can't go down there and say you're going to run it if you don't want to muscle up, up front," Cheika said.
Greg Growden and Russell Barwick preview Super Rugby round five, including the Brumbies against the Waratahs