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Who will captain the Wallabies?
January 9, 2014
Ben Mowen will leave Australia after the Super Rugby season

Quade Cooper could take one of sport's most remarkable transformations to another level as Wallabies captain after Ben Mowen's shock decision to quit Australian rugby.

Wallabies skipper Mowen stunned the Australian rugby community on Thursday by announcing he would leave at the end of the 2014 season to play for a French club, shunning the chance to lead Australia at Rugby World Cup 2015 in order to put his family first.

Mowen, who made his Test debut only in June, was installed as Australia captain on the European tour in November, when coach Ewen McKenzie promoted him over James Horwill.

McKenzie will still consider Mowen for this year's Tests, but he's certain to install a new skipper with the World Cup looming the following year. He would not be drawn on the likely candidate, indicating he could wait till after the Super Rugby season to decide.

"There's a bunch of guys," McKenzie said. "We don't have to pick a team for six months, so we'll worry about that closer to the time."

Horwill, Will Genia and David Pocock have all captained Australia in recent years as injuries took their toll. But Cooper is the most intriguing candidate, as he is arguably next in line having been promoted to vice-captain when Mowen got the captaincy.

Cooper doesn't have the captaincy experience of Genia, Horwill, Pocock or another potential candidate, Melbourne Rebels skipper Scott Higginbotham, but he's clearly held in high regard by McKenzie, who brought him back into the team after he was shunned by previous coach Robbie Deans and punished by the Australian Rugby Union for publicly criticising a "toxic" Wallabies culture.

Cooper subsequently won plaudits for his return to form on the field and his development as a responsible senior player off it. He also captained Queensland Reds against the British & Irish Lions.

Wallabies Captaincy Candidates

Quade Cooper
Position: Fly-half
Super team: Queensland Reds
Age: 25
Tests: 50
Test debut: 2008
The mercurial five-eighth has shown more maturity since recalled to the side by Ewen McKenzie and appointed vice-captain after being on the outer with previous coach Robbie Deans over his "toxic" comment regarding the atmosphere among the Wallabies in late 2012.

Will Genia
Position: Scrum-half
Super team: Queensland Reds
Age: 25
Tests: 55
Test debut: 2009
He has captained Queensland and Australia, and is recognised as one of the world's great half-backs. He has a huge influence on the Wallabies' backline.

Scott Higginbotham
Position: Back-row
Super team: Rebels
Age: 27
Tests: 23
Test debut: 2010
Captained Melbourne Rebels in place of the injured Gareth Delve on several occasions in 2013, and the hard-running back-row has been appointed full-time captain for the coming year.

James Horwill
Position: Lock
Super team: Queensland Reds
Age: 28
Tests: 48
Test debut: 2007
Long-standing skipper of the Reds, whom he led to the 2011 Super Rugby title, before replacing Rocky Elsom as Wallabies skipper for Rugby World Cup 2011. He lost the job on the 2013 end-of-year tour.

David Pocock
Position: Openside flanker
Super team : Brumbies
Age: 25
Tests: 46
Test debut: 2008
He has captaincy experience with both Western Force and Australia, and has gained widespread acclaim for championing causes off the field as well as for his great work on the pitch.

Quade Cooper captain Ewen McKenzie's Reds against the British & Irish Lions © Getty Images
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