Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore has announced he will stand down from the captaincy immediately but will retire from international rugby at the end of the season.
Moore, who made his Test debut in 2005, will play one more Super Rugby season with the Queensland Reds, even though he still has two years to run on his contract.
He said it was a “very, very tough” moment when he decided to retire from the Test arena.
“It has been a big part of my life and it means a lot to me playing for Australia,” said Moore, who is in camp with the Wallabies in Newcastle.
“I just felt like in the last few months, you talk to people that have done it and they say you know when it is time and I think I got to feeling in the last few months talking to a lot of people close to me.
“I felt it is the right time to finish the year strongly and then let the next crop of players take the team forward.”
The 34-year-old hooker played his 120th Test for the Wallabies last month against Italy in Brisbane, becoming the 10th most capped international player of all time.
Moore, who sits behind only George Gregan in the list of Wallabies Test appearances, had previously outlined his intention on playing through to the 2019 World Cup in Japan but his retirement announcement did not come as a surprise.
His form at both Test and Super Rugby level has been mixed since he captained the Wallabies in the 2015 World Cup final against New Zealand and the fact he turns 36 in 2019 suggested Japan was always going to be a bridge too far.
He was left out of the Wallabies’ starting XV for their opening two Tests earlier this year against Fiji and Scotland before returning as captain for the Italy fixture.
“It was completely a decision (to retire)… just based around the contribution I thought I could make, particularly with the World Cup in mind,” Moore said.
“The World Cup’s a big part of the rugby cycle. I didn’t feel like I could give it everything I had until 2019, which is still a while was way.”
Moore, who played in three World Cups, was appointed Wallabies captain in 2014 by then-coach Ewen McKenzie but his tenure was put on ice when he suffered a season-ending knee injury against France in their opening Test of the year.
Michael Hooper took over the captaincy for the remainder of the Wallabies’ 2014 program and there was much speculation he would replace Moore on a full-time basis.
But Michael Cheika, who replaced McKenzie as Wallabies coach the same year, showed faith in Moore’s leadership abilities and named him captain in the build-up to the 2015 World Cup.
Moore buoyed by Wallabies’ leadership future
Moore said the decision to step down as Wallabies captain had been planned for some time but he showed confidence in the leadership skills among the squad in the build-up to the 2019 World Cup.
“Having been around this young group for probably a few months, we are well served going forward,” he said.
“There is a good crop of young leaders on the horizon, guys like Michael Hooper, Adam Coleman, Bernard Foley will play a key role.
“As long as those players can stay together for the medium term, the team will do well.”
Moore, a product of Brisbane Grammar School, will back up for another Super Rugby campaign with the Reds in 2018.
He looked to breathe life into his career when he moved back to the Reds ahead of the 2017 season after eight years with the Brumbies.
He shifted to the Brumbies in 2009, having earlier made his Super Rugby debut for the Reds as a 20-year-old in 2003.