AUSTRALIA skipper Ben Mowen believes that Scotland will face a more focused and together squad tonight as a result of the bans imposed on a handful of players.
Mowen was not one of the group who stayed out in Dublin until 4am last Wednesday, and when asked about the effects of coach Ewen McKenzie’s suspension on six players, five missing this weekend, the back-rower revealed that he had no qualms about it as he believed a personal ‘booze ban’ had played a key role in his incredible year to date.
The 28-year-old has risen through the ranks of Aussie rugby swiftly, moving from McKenzie’s Queensland Reds to the New South Waratahs and then to the Brumbies in an effort to find himself a starting spot in Super Rugby, and duly helping his new club to the Super Rugby final to earn himself a Test debut against the British and Irish Lions in June.
He is already looking forward to his 14th Test match this evening and with more responsibility having taken over the captaincy from Reds lock James Horwill at the start of this European tour. Putting alcohol off-limits, he said, had been a key part in that rise.
“I can’t mix alcohol and performance,” he said. “I know that. I can’t do it. I didn’t drink for the first six or seven months of this year because I knew that for me to get the best out of myself as a footballer, I couldn’t do it.
“As a young bloke I did used to drink and think I could do it, but I can’t. I just don’t get results on the field. I don’t play good footy when I’m drinking, so I just have to avoid it.”
He, therefore, backed up McKenzie’s decision and contrary to media speculation in Australia that the bans caused a major rift in the squad, Mowen insisted after yesterday’s captain’s run that it had had the opposite effect with players rallying round each other.
“They’re hurting for a lot of different reasons and are also paying a pretty hefty price for that, and they need support as well. We are a squad and it’s important that when blokes have a bugger-up, we help them through as a side.
“I’m pretty confident that it’s going be something we reflect on in the future and look back and say that this was a really important stepping stone.”