Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Patrick McKendry: Moore isn't better for Wallabies

Australian Rugby Captain Stephen Moore. Photo / Greg Bowker.
Australian Rugby Captain Stephen Moore. Photo / Greg Bowker.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika wants to improve his team's mental resilience. A good place to start would be to take the captaincy off Stephen Moore and give it to someone capable of playing for 80 minutes.

These days it's a surprise if Moore lasts an hour. His best effort in the June series against England was 62 minutes in the third test in Melbourne, and that, frankly, is not good enough for a test captain.

It undermines Cheika's aim of lifting his side's ability to cope when the pressure comes on late in tests.

Instead of 33-year-old Moore leading from the front in the final quarter, on comes replacement hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, a once explosive player but one who is also slowing down. Worryingly for the Wallabies, Polota-Nau has also been recently prone to getting the yips at lineout time.

Big tests are won and lost in the final quarter. That's when strong leadership is critical, but unless Moore's fitness has improved significantly over the past couple of months, it would surprise if he lasted beyond the 65-minute mark at ANZ Stadium tonight in the replay of the World Cup final, a key match in terms of the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship.

Moore, who has played 105 tests and has been a great servant of Australian rugby, is in danger of becoming the weak link of this Wallabies team, and Cheika should have added quickly and decisively after the June whitewash at the hands of his former teammate Eddie Jones.

By comparison, All Blacks skipper Kieran Read played every minute of the three tests in the victories over Wales in June - even in Dunedin, the most clear-cut of the margins, when his side ran out 46-6 victors.

All Blacks hooker Coles, unavailable for tonight's match in Sydney due to a rib injury, was replaced in all three tests against Wales, but not until the 71st, 75th and 71st minutes respectively in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin.

Loose forwards Michael Hooper and David Pocock loom as captaincy alternatives for Cheika. Pocock would be the best fit.

Another issue for the Wallabies in June was their ability to get on the wrong side of the referee. For whatever reason, Moore struggled to find common ground and there is a suspicion Hooper, the Waratahs captain and a former skipper of Australia, lacks maturity to consistently lead a test side.

Hooper was seen in the third test against England at Melbourne's AAMI Park throwing sand from the appalling pitch in the direction of loose forward opponent James Haskell during a scrum, a bizarre act against the spirit of the game.

By contrast, Pocock, 28, appeals as a player with a strong moral compass and leadership ability.

A victory for the Wallabies tonight will merely serve to paper of the cracks as far as Moore is concerned. A defeat should put the spotlight on Moore, and for Australia's sake, a change can't come quickly enough.

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