Moon shines in the Test arena
By Mark Stevens
It’s an occasion he will no doubt never forget, pulling on the England jersey for the first time, and helping his country to a Test Match victory on home soil.
However, Ben Moon is determined that his moment in the spotlight is not restricted to just a one-off outing on the hallowed turf of Twickenham.
Thrust into the fray at half time by head coach Eddie Jones for club-mate Alec Hepburn, the 29-year-old not only took his opportunity to shine against South Africa, but he delivered an on-field performance that showed little sign of first day nerves.
“It was fantastic,” said the Exeter Chiefs prop this week. “To play for your country in front of a packed house at Twickenham, it doesn’t get much better than that. To have my friends and my family there as well, it was all very special.”
With England trailing at the break in their opening Autumn international, Moon joined Chiefs team-mates Hepburn, Harry Williams, Henry Slade and Jack Nowell in turning things round during the second half to help secure a 12-11 victory against the Springboks.
“To be honest, I wasn't expecting to play a full half,” added Moon, who is now into his 10th year with the Devon club. “It was an opportunity, though, and I knew I had to grab it with both hands. As I said, just being able to do it on home soil – in front of my friends and my family – and to get the win, it all made for a very enjoyable day.”
Moon’s elevation, however, into the England senior ranks is rich reward for a player who has not only been loyal, but who has been happy to adapt his game and his characteristics to challenges put in front of him.
“When you’re creeping towards 30, you kind of think the opportunity may have gone and that you’ve missed the boat in terms of international rugby,” continued Moon. “There are, however, other players who have got their first caps in their 30s, so I was very excited to get the opportunity to go out and play.
“Obviously any international side you face will be that step up from what you face week to week in the Premiership, but we had prepped well for how we wanted to play. It was an intense, fast game, and in the end we came out with the victory.”
Next up for England is the visit of world champions New Zealand to Twickenham this Saturday and Moon is hopeful he will again be part of Jones’ match-day plans.
“It would be fantastic to potentially play against New Zealand,” he said. “They are a great side, but to be the best you have to beat the best. Throughout my career things have got better and better for me, but at the same time the games have got harder and harder. But that’s kind of what you expect because everyone is playing at the top level.”