Warrior at large: Wallabies captain Stephen Moore. Photo: Dan MullanLONDON: The stud marks on Stephen Moore’s face are the reminder of what he’s willing to do for his country, but the Wallabies skipper is on a mission to heal ‘s wounds of the past.
Forget the milestone and his journey to 100 Test caps, Moore just wants the Wallabies to win back respect and build a reputation on honesty, hard work and clarity.
But while Moore deflects attention from his historic moment, fellow Wallabies centurion Nathan Sharpe declared the hard-nosed hooker the “perfect man” to lead into an era of success.
Moore and Matt Giteau will become the seventh and eighth players to earn 100 Wallabies caps when they play against Scotland in the World Cup quarter final on Sunday (Monday morning AEDT).
It’s a moment that puts them among n rugby elite, joining Sharpe, George Gregan, Stephen Larkham, Adam Ashley-Cooper, George Smith and David Campese in reaching the mark.
Moore has become the voice of reason in the Wallabies, standing up for team culture and trying to erase the wrongs and controversy of recent years.
“I don’t really want to go into the past, now is not the moment,” Moore said.
“For me, when I started in the Wallabies my teammates made it a tough environment, but a good one to be a part of and something I aspired to.
“Now that I am a senior player, that’s what I want to create – a culture that people want to be a part of and aspire to.
“Right from the start I felt it was a special environment. It’s about being really honest, a culture of hard work and there’s no substitute for that.
“It’s important we try to promote that step up around anything we do … that it’s at a level above where we’ve been near previously because that’s what it’s going to take.”
You’ll find Moore at the bottom of a ruck or doing the “dark arts” work at training to ensure his team is firing for its clash against Scotland.
His work ethic and high standards have made him one of the most respected figures in world rugby a decade after making his Test debut.
Moore would rather all of the attention be focused on the Wallabies needing to win to advance to the next stage.
If he had it his way, there’d be little fanfare and would wait until after the tournament to reflect on his milestone moment.
But that’s exactly why Sharpe says he’s the right man to take charge of the Wallabies’ reins, teaming up with Michael Cheika to drive a new culture and a new path for the future.
“He was the perfect choice and the perfect man, to be perfectly frank I think it was a mistake not to have him as a leader earlier,” Sharpe said.
“The timing of things always works in strange ways to get to a right outcome. Steve’s had a chance to watch a lot of people maybe not go about things the right way.
“He’s been able to take that in … now he’s aligned with Michael Cheika and that’s reflective of how everything’s going. Often things come together for a World Cup.
“And at this stage … if do go all the way, it will be partly because these two came together at the right time.”
Moore started his Wallabies career as a quietly spoken rake on the rise who once flirted with the idea of switching allegiances to Ireland.
His parents are both Irish and he lived in Galway until he was five when his family moved to Queensland.
But the lure of a gold jersey proved the decisive factor in committing to and now he wants to play his part in restoring its aura.
The Wallabies have a chance to do just that when they play Scotland for a spot in the semi-finals.
“We have guys in our team who can do that flashy stuff, but for them to do that we need to do our job. That involves just rolling your sleeves up and focusing on the dark arts,” Moore said.
Moore said the Wallabies needed to “define what we stand for” after some lean years on and off the field.
He was given the Wallabies’ captaincy job last year, but disaster struck five minutes into his tenure when he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and needed a knee reconstruction.
That has given him a steely resolve at this third World Cup, and possibly his last, with the Wallabies perfectly positioned to make a charge to the final.
He doesn’t want to speculate about his future and whether this is his last chance to rise to World Cup glory.
But that doesn’t mean there’s any time for reflection.
“All I’m focused on is this next opportunity. There’s so much to play for, it doesn’t matter if it’s your 30th, 40th or 50th Test. It’s just as important. When I hang up the boots I might look back at this type of thing.
“I’m not closing the book on anything. When you start thinking about those things you’re looking too far down the track. For me, it’s about the next challenge and that’s Scotland.”