Representative Honours: Australian U21 2005, Australian Wallabies 2008-present
Senior Tours: Hong Kong & Europe 2008, Japan & Europe 2009, Hong Kong & Europe 2010, RWC (New Zealand) 2011, England & Wales 2011, Europe 2012; UK/Europe 2013
With a start in all three of the Qantas Wallabies’ Tests against the British & Irish Lions in 2013, BEN ALEXANDER became just the fourth Australian prop to reach 50 Test appearances.
The 29-year-old, who is now at home on the tight-head side of the scrum after having started off life as a loosehead, joined Al Baxter, Benn Robinson and Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie in the 50-Test club.
The milestone also saw Alexander become just the 38th player to feature in 50 games for Australia, during a stellar year where he featured in 14 out of a possible 15 games for the Wallabies.
After playing a key role in The British & Irish Lions series, Alexander maintained his stranglehold on the number three jersey when selected as the team’s starting tighthead prop in coach Ewen McKenzie’s inaugural line-up to play the opening Bledisloe Cup Test.
Such is the consistency of selection that Alexander has enjoyed, he has only missed six games for Australia since returning from a knee injury on the 2010 Spring Tour.
The 2013 season was a significant one for Alexander, who realised a once-in-a-career opportunity by taking on the Lions before contesting his first Super Rugby Final, with the Brumbies falling agonizingly short of glory, 27-22 to the Chiefs.
The versatile prop found himself in a unique situation during the first Test of the series against the Lions, as he packed down against former Bedford teammates Tom Youngs and Dan Cole, the former of which was a centre when Alexander played with him.
Alexander has reinvented himself as a Test tight-head, while still playing at loose-head for his state; and also overcome a significant injury during his Test career. The injury occurred in Alexander’s third season as a Wallaby, during his first Test at his Canberra home ground, against Fiji in 2010, where he blew out the ligaments in his knee. The damage put paid to the rest of the domestic Test season, although his diligent rehabilitation allowed a return on that year’s Spring Tour.
The big front-rower, who is noted for his mobility in general play, made an immediate impact on return, taking the quick tap kick from a penalty which allowed James O’Connor to cross for the winning try in the last gasp win over the All Blacks at Hong Kong. A week later, he posted his maiden Test try during the win against Wales at Cardiff. The unfortunate Welsh would rate as Alexander’s favourite Test opponent: he has played them eight times for eight wins, joining utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper and flanker David Pocock as the only players to have featured in every win gathered by the Qantas Wallabies during the current winning sequence against Wales which dates back to 2009.
While the move to the number three jersey has clearly aided Alexander’s Test selection prospects, it has slowed down his try-scoring production. The try he scored against South Africa at Perth, which claimed the Try of the Year award at last year’s John Eales Medal awards night, was just his third from the 48 Tests he has now played. He scored seven in 2010 alone, while playing on the loose-head side of the front-row in Super Rugby, finishing that year as the Brumbies’ leading try-scorer.
The Brumbies have played a big part in the Alexander career, with the Sydney-schooled front-rower joining the franchise six seasons ago. He had just returned from a stint with Bedford in England’s National Division One competition when he relocated to Canberra, having earlier represented Australia in the Under-21 grade and the Western Sydney Rams in the sole season of the Australian Rugby Championship in 2007.
Alexander made his debut in Super Rugby against the Queensland Reds in 2008 but was still a relative unknown when called up for the first Wallabies squad named by Robbie Deans, making his debut when inserted as a replacement into the first of the two June Tests against France.
The meteoric nature of Ben Alexander’s rise to Test Rugby was highlighted by the fact that when he started in Australia’s Test win over Italy at Padova in November 2008: it was the first ‘starting role’ in either Super or Test Rugby of his fledgling professional career.
He remained a loose-head until his second season, making the switch for the back half of the 2009 Tri Nations when he was tried at tight-head as successor to Australia’s most capped prop, Baxter. Such was his impact operating in the new role, Alexander finished that year as one of just four players – Adam Ashley-Cooper, James Horwill and George Smith were the others – to feature in all 14 Tests played.
He started the following year in fine form for the Brumbies, with his mobility around the field and prowess with ball in hand highlighted when he scored two tries for the Brumbies in matches on three separate occasions. Then came the injury misfortune on what should have been the special occasion of his maiden Test on home territory in Canberra.
Born in Sydney, Alexander was educated at Knox College north of the Harbour Bridge. Alexander re-signed with Australian Rugby Union earlier in the year with a view to attending his second Rugby World Cup in 2015.