You could say Dean Mumm has an excellent sense of timing. Or just that the stars are shining on him. Either way the 31-year old is rolling with the good times after a livewire few months that have seen him leave a lucrative spot in English club rugby and head home, re-joining the Australian set-up in time for the capture of the Rugby Championship and the start of the . Mumm’s journey has continued with a stellar week back in the UK; he was named as Wallabies captain, his wife give birth to a son and he scored a try in Australia’s 65-3 rout of Uruguay in Birmingham.
For the veteran lock it has been a whirlwind period and the big moments are not stopping, as the Wallabies prepare to take on England in a do-or-die match at Twickenham on Saturday (Sunday morning Australian time). The game holds extra significance for Mumm as he spent the past three years with English side Exeter, captaining the Chiefs and leading them up the table as an Aviva Premiership contender.
The south-west of England might have been a strange destination for the forward who comes from Antipodean rugby royalty – his grandfather Bill played for the All Blacks, his father John was a former director of the Australian Rugby Union while he skippered the Australian Schoolboys as a youngster – but it was one he thoroughly enjoyed.
“I had a wonderful time at the Chiefs,” Mumm said. “In a way it reinvigorated my enjoyment for playing the sport, for enjoying it and the people around you. [But] I’m really enjoying where I am playing at the moment and the opportunities that present themselves.”
Mumm’s love of his time at Sandy Park showed in his performances there – he made 70 appearances, became a fan favourite and helped them to sixth, eighth and fifth place finishes. In 2013 he was given the captain’s armband. But in April this year he was enticed back to Australia and to the Waratahs by Wallabies coach Michael Cheika with the carrot of a World Cup in September. For someone who had accrued 33 caps for Australia but missed out on the tournament in 2011, and whose Wallaby career appeared done and dusted, it was an offer too good to refuse.
“It is a good time, it’s an exciting time [to be back],” Mumm said. “The World Cup is always a good time to be involved in international rugby but to be honest there’s no bad time to be involved in international rugby. It’s always exciting; it’s always an honour. I think something ‘Cheik’ has been working hard on is to evolve that identity and really represent the people of Australia and we’re working really hard to get that done.”
Mumm’s reintroduction has seen him come of the bench and score a try in the Wallabies’ 34-9 victory over Argentina in Mendoza in July. He then followed it up with a solid 80-minute performance as Cheika’s charges defeated the All Blacks by eight points in Sydney, which sealed Australia’s first Rugby Championship crown since 2011. That special win was also the Wallabies first victory against New Zealand in four years. These are heady days for Australian rugby right now, considering the barren and controversial past few seasons under Robbie Deans and then Ewen McKenzie. But that all could change quickly in the pressure cooker that will be Twickenham this weekend.
Last Thursday Mumm had the honour of being selected as the 84th person to captain the Wallabies, but he had little time to savour the moment. He rushed off to a London hospital to witness the arrival of his son. Three days later he led out Australia against Uruguay, bagging a rare five-pointer in the process as the green and gold crushed the South Americans. Life has rarely been sweeter for the second-rower.
“It’s been a pretty good couple of days,” he said. “It’s pretty pleasing. I feel good. I could probably do with a little bit more sleep, but that’s what happens with a baby. You’re not going to get much sleep. It’s been a pretty jubilant couple of days. Obviously the birth of your son is an amazing thing and you float enough for that, let alone to have the opportunity to captain your country, and to score a meat pie, which you don’t do very often either.”
The Wallabies’ World Cup campaign has ratcheted up a few notches with England needing to defeat Australia to keep their tournament alive. Lose and the hosts are out. Mumm’s knowledge of the English conditions and the home team, including his former Exeter team-mates Geoff Parling and Henry Slade, could play a key part. “I will offer whatever I can, if it’s an indication to get over people I played with or spent some time,” he said. The lock is expected to take a spot in the 23-man squad with Will Skelton ruled out of the World Cup with injury.
Cheika’s Wallabies have been careful not to give any ammunition to the English media and publicly state they only have eyes on their own team and its direction. “If you spend so much time worrying on anyone else, you forgot about yourself,” Mumm said. “The focus will be on us and what we can do and how we can improve going into that [the England] game.” The forward is clearly enjoying these precious moments. To Mumm there’s the hope that the happy days, at least for now, are here to stay: “It’s all been pretty good, pretty positive. And long may the positivity continue.”