Quade Cooper could take one of sport's most remarkable transformations to another level as national captain following Ben Mowen's shock decision to quit Australian rugby.
Wallabies skipper Mowen stunned the local rugby community on Thursday by announcing he'll leave at the end of the 2014 season to play for a French club, shunning the chance to lead Australia at the 2015 World Cup in order to put his family first.
Mowen, who only made his Test debut in June, was installed as Australian captain on November's European tour when coach Ewen McKenzie promoted him over James Horwill.
An understanding McKenzie said he will still consider backrower Mowen for this year's Tests, but he's certain to install a new skipper with the World Cup looming the following year.
McKenzie would not be drawn on the likely candidate and indicated he may wait till after the Super Rugby season to decide.
"There's a bunch of guys," McKenzie told AAP.
"We don't have to pick a team for six months, so we'll worry about that closer to the time."
Horwill, halfback Will Genia and flanker David Pocock have all captained Australia in recent years as injuries took their toll.
Perhaps the most intriguing candidate is Cooper, who's arguably next in line after being promoted to vice-captain when Mowen got the captaincy.
The five-eighth doesn't have the captaincy experience of Genia, Horwill and Pocock or another potential candidate, Melbourne Rebels backrower and skipper Scott Higginbotham.
But he's clearly held in high regard by McKenzie, who brought him back into the team after he was shunned by previous coach Robbie Deans and punished by the Australian Rugby Union for publicly criticising a "toxic" Wallabies culture.
Cooper subsequently won plaudits for his return to form on the field and his development as a responsible senior player off it.
Mowen had been in negotiations with the ARU over a new contract, having earned less than many Wallabies teammates last season when he played every Test.
The cash-strapped ARU only provides contract top ups to players once they have had two years in the Wallabies.
However he said his decision was not influenced by his contract talks.
"We were working along nicely and it got to the point before we even had to come to an agreement that I rang Ewen and said 'look, it's not going to be about money'," Mowen said.
"It's more about what is fitting with my motivation."
That motivation is Mowen's 18-month daughter Eleanor and his wife Lauren.
Simply, the Brumbies skipper spent almost seven months away from them last year with Super Rugby and Wallabies commitments and he doesn't want to keep doing that.
"It was just time at home at Christmas around the family where I thought, 'nah, at this stage, this is more important to me than trying to get to the World Cup'," Mowen said.
He revealed he had a brief chat to McKenzie about the possibility of leaving after the Wallabies' final game of the season against Wales on November 30.
"Straight after the fulltime siren, I informed him how I was feeling," he said.
"I'm lucky enough that I have a really good relationship with Link (McKenzie) to do that. And he was really supportive and understood.
"I am probably the first (Wallabies captain to be in this situation), but I'm also probably the first bloke to make his Test debut at 28 and retire at 29.
"It was short and sweet for a Test career. It's a hard decision. It took months, but I'm comfortable where I've come to and I'm proud of the contribution I've made."
While disappointed to lose Mowen, McKenzie praised him for his professionalism and for keeping him informed through the negotiating process with the ARU.
"He's been very open and transparent," McKenzie said.