Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has backed Stephen Moore to turn his 2017 around, after the Wallabies skipper's slow start to the year.
Moore, who is the stand-in Reds captain after James Slipper succumbed to injury, has been eclipsed in the form stakes by the Waratahs’ Tolu Latu and his 2016 back-up Tatafu Polota-Nau in the opening seven rounds of Super Rugby.
The 34-year-old’s workload has been immense in recent weeks, playing close to a full game for the Reds, where in much of 2016 he was generally off by the 60-minute mark.
Cheika said he wasn’t overly concerned by Moore’s form, showing a trend he is not unfamiliar with.
“I would say that in the time I've been in the national coaching job, I would say this is a bit of his pattern,” he said.
“At the end of the day, he's been playing 80 minutes a few games in a row. He's been very present there - he probably wasn't expecting to be the captain of Queensland either, just quietly.”
Cheika said the 116-Test hooker wouldn’t need to be told to lift his form, given his fiercely competitive nature.
“I would say that he knows, 'I've got to pick my game up', but he's smart enough to know that, he doesn't need me coming down there and telling him,” he said.
”He knows it himself.”
Moore cut a forlorn figure after last weekend’s 43-10 shellacking at the hands of the Brumbies, describing their second half as ‘embarrassing’ and saying he felt ‘numb’, speaking post-match.
It’s that emotion that Cheika pointed to as a sign of the characteristics that will pull Moore out of his form funk, but the Wallabies mentor was quick to say he wasn’t above the competition.
“I've got an idea of what I want him to do this year and I think you've got to look at some of the other blokes,” he said.
“I think Tolu's had a good year so far, Taf has been strong too. We've got our eye on a couple of other young blokes out there as well.
“We want to put ‘Moorey’ in the competitive space with everybody else and I have no doubt that he will answer the competitive call, that's his nature.
“He doesn't like losing, that guy, I think you saw it all over his face the other day when they played and they got beat the other night.
“That would've been hard for him and I know he'll react to that.”
Though there’s some heat on the Reds hooker, asked if Moore would be in the Wallabies 23 for June’s opener against Fiji, Cheika was blunt.