SYDNEY: Stephen Moore is stepping down as Wallabies captain with immediate effect and will call time on his 12-year international career at the end of the season, the hooker said on Thursday.
Moore is the 10th most capped player in the history of the game and his 120 test appearances is second only to George Gregan (139) among Australian players.
The 34-year-old made his debut against Samoa in 2005 and played at three World Cups for the Wallabies, leading his country to the final against New Zealand in England in 2015.
“I’ve been very lucky to have played as long as I have,” Moore said.
“There’s still plenty of footy to go this year but I know the Wallabies will be left in very strong hands if we continue to work hard and stay grounded.
“As of the next test I will be handing over the captaincy, and will spend the next four months supporting the new leadership team in any way possible.”
Flanker Michael Hooper is his most likely successor, having performed the same role under coach Michael Cheika at the New South Wales Waratahs and for the Wallabies on a stand-in basis on several occasions.
Australia play world champions New Zealand twice next month to open their Rugby Championship campaign but Moore is not expected to start with Tatafu Polota-Nau taking the number two shirt from him in recent tests.
For more than a decade, though, Moore was an ever-present in the Wallabies front row, shoring up an oft-criticised unit with his power in the scrum and providing plenty of ‘go-forward’ with ball in hand.
Born in Saudi Arabia to Irish parents who subsequently emigrated to Australia, Moore was raised in Brisbane and established his reputation at the Queensland Reds.
He was handed his first cap by Eddie Jones, making his debut from the bench alongside his now long-retired predecessor as Wallabies skipper, Rocky Elsom, in a 74-7 victory over Samoa in Sydney.
Jones was the first of five Wallabies coaches Moore has played under, with Ewen McKenzie first elevating him to the captaincy for the 2014 June test series against France.
Moore’s participation in that series lasted just a matter of seconds, however, as he suffered a knee injury that wiped out the rest of his season.
Cheika restored him to the role the following season and it was Moore who led the team to the title in a truncated Rugby Championship and to the World Cup final.
“His contribution to this current team cannot be understated,” Cheika said.
“What he’s achieved on the field is no mean feat but it’s his work off the field in his role as captain of Australia that has really impressed me.
“We now have to make sure we send him off in the best way possible this year.”
Although nicknamed “Squeak” from his high school days, Moore has always been highly respected and it was his leadership as much as his playing skills that made him so attractive to the Reds when he was looking to leave the Brumbies last year.
Already the second-most capped player in two decades of Super Rugby, Moore will play one more season with the Reds in 2018 after his international retirement.