Stephen Moore the standard bearer for Australia

It is a list so illustrious, you don’t even have to use their first names.

Kirk, Farr-Jones, Pienaar, Eales, Johnson, Smit, McCaw... Moore?

Stephen Moore stands on the verge of greatness. If he does emerge from the pack to lift the trophy at Twickenham on Saturday, the Australian captain will do so in the same manner in which he exits a collapsed maul; blinking, rather like a mole exiting his burrow.

Moore does not enjoy the limelight. He is the classic case of a man leading by example, through deed rather than word.

There are others on that list — notably Martin Johnson — who did the same. But they were recognised as great leaders, whereas Moore could be a leader who has greatness thrust upon him after just a few weeks in the job.

Certainly in comparison to Richie McCaw, his opposite number at Twickenham this weekend, we know very little about him.

Stephen Moore the standard bearer for Australia

So what is it about Moore that makes him the perfect figurehead for Michael Cheika’s brave new Australian team?

“I first started playing with Stephen at The University of Queensland and he is a guy I am very proud to call a mate,” says James Horwill, who captained Australia during the Lions tour two years ago but missed the cut for Cheika’s 31-man squad this time around.

“He was a loosehead prop back then but now he’s a hooker. He holds that group together.

“He’s not a flashy player or someone who gets spoken about a lot but I think he does a great job and is the guy that I think is a real important cog in that machine. He sets the standards on and off the field.”

And this Australian squad is packed with unheralded players who are threatening to steal the limelight. For every David Pocock there is a Scott Fardy; every Michael Hooper a Stephen Moore.

“A lot of this (the noise around a final) doesn’t rattle him,” says Horwill. “He has played over 100 Tests and been around the system a long time.

“He knows what he wants and expects. He is very passionate about playing for Australia and it means a lot to him. I really hope we see a photo of him holding the William Webb Ellis Cup on Saturday.

“It would be incredible to see him join that list of captains. He is a fantastic statesman, not just for Australian rugby but for world rugby.”

Yet it could all have been very different. Moore — and there will be more on this in tomorrow’s newspaper — was born in Saudi Arabia to Irish parents and spent the first five years of his life in Galway.

Then came a return to Australia and the green-and-gold was always going to win out over the green of Ireland when international honours came calling.

When the proverbial hit the fan — as it often did with James O’Connor in the side and in the wake of Kurtley Beale’s indescretions — Moore would lay down the law behind the scenes.

So when Cheika appointed him captain, there was no dissent.

“For me, when I started in the Wallabies, my teammates made it a tough environment, but a good one to be a part of and something I aspired to,” said Moore at the time.

“Now that I am a senior player, that’s what I want to create — a culture that people want to be a part of and aspire to.

“Right from the start, I felt it was a special environment. It’s about being really honest, a culture of hard work and there’s no substitute for that.

“It’s important we try to promote that step up around anything we do… that it’s at a level above where we’ve been near previously because that’s what it’s going to take.”

Yet his first stint as captain lasted five minutes before suffering a serious knee injury against France. Michael Hooper excelled in his absence but Cheika had no hesitation in reinstating Moore for this tournament.

Known as ‘Squeak’ and possessing a dry wit that regularly undercuts friends and team-mates, Moore symbolises what Cheika wants from his side; honesty, simplicity and pride.

“Cheik is unconventional but he gets everyone to buy into what he’s trying to do,” says Horwill, who is not bitter despite having his own World Cup dream dashed.

“He is a great coach and will have something special lined up for this week.

“He is just very good at being able to get the best out of guys, and has shown that already in this tournament.

“He likes to use different motivational tools and gets guys out of their comfort zone. But for him, it’s all about the Wallabies having an identity and sticking to that.”

That meant making Moore the symbol of his team. There are few in Australia who don’t believe he is worthy of a place on that illustrious list.

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