Former Wallabies captain Ben Mowen says overseas defections are tougher to execute than may meet the eye and won’t spoil Australia’s domestic product.
The 35-year-old former Brumbies skipper is in Brisbane after a five-year French stint he took for family reasons that effectively ended his Wallabies career less than a year after his debut.
Similar defections have continued, with NSW Waratahs trio Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale and Rob Simmons among those who have or will depart the Waratahs soon.
Wallabies lock Izack Rodda’s ugly exit from the Queensland Reds to France during the COVID-19-enforced break sent tremors through Australian rugby, particularly with no broadcast deal locked in beyond this season to bankroll future contracts.
But Mowen has been impressed by the spectacle of Super Rugby AU and says the game could sustain itself until circumstances allow for an annual trans-Tasman league.
“The broadcast deal will be worked out in good time and personally I hope that’s the direction we go in, whether that’s one year away or two years away is out of our hands,” he said of a trans-Tasman competition.
“But we’ve proven there can be a great product just playing the Australian sides (despite) coming off a reasonably short preparation.
“There’s always going to be guys at different states of their career (looking to move) but in terms of the overseas market, it’s closing off.
“It’s not as open as it once was, not as easy as maybe it’s perceived to just go over to a strong club.”
“The guys are very passionate about Australian rugby; there might have been times of disenchantment but the great thing is now that we get a reset.”
Mowen, now a Junior Wallabies assistant coach, has been impressed by the stable of young talent emerging at Super Rugby level this year.
He rates No.8 Harry Wilson’s first professional season as good as any for an Australian forward he can recall.
But with Wallabies captaincy still up for grabs he encouraged new coach Dave Rennie to keep it simple before back-to-back Tests in New Zealand next month.
“If it was me I’d be backing (incumbent) Michael Hooper the whole way,” he said.
“We need that type of leadership there.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now