Rocky Elsom has been named Wallaby captain for the upcoming Northern Hemisphere tour beginning later this month.
He has taken over from Stirling Mortlock who was also named in the side. Berrick Barnes is the Vice- Captain. This will no doubt increase speculation that Mortlock’s Wallaby career may be coming to a close on top of his recent visit to Japan to check-out future options.
Seven uncapped players have been included in the Wallabies squad announced today. The tour will incorporate Australia’s first attempt at a Grand Slam of the UK and Ireland in 25 years. The new caps are Kurtley Beale (NSW), Rob Horne (NSW), Dave Dennis (NSW), Richard Kingi (QLD), Mitchell Chapman (ACT), Salesi Ma’afu (ACT) and Matt Hodgson (WA).
The new leadership group is headed up by Elsom, 26, who has played 44 Tests for his country, having debuted against Samoa in 2005. He returned to Australia earlier this year in time to play four times during the Tri Nations, after a successful off-season in Ireland where he helped the Dublin-based Leinster club win the Heineken Cup.
He now becomes Australia’s 76th Test captain. Coach Robbie Deans felt that the time was right to adjust the leadership of the team.
“Stirling has done a good job as Australian skipper, both before I became involved, and over the last 16 months. He also understands that this initiative has no meaning in terms of his playing future. He has indicated a desire to continue not only to play but also to lead and we respect that,” Deans says.
In discussing George Smith’s recent captaincy he said: “Although George did a sound job taking over once Stirling was injured this season, we feel the role has never really sat naturally with him. Captaincy requires a big commitment both on and away from the field and we believe George is better served not being saddled with the additional responsibility. He still has the opportunity to contribute leadership within the group.”
Deans says Elsom appealed as the best option for the position, both due to his certainty in terms of selection and ability to lead from the front. “Rocky has the respect of his team-mates because of his approach and the total commitment he brings to the game,” Deans says.
Twenty seven of the players selected today featured for the Wallabies earlier in the year, in either the mid-year Test window or during the Tri Nations.
Three players who were members of the pre-tour training squad – lock Nathan Sharpe, uncapped winger Nick Cummins and flanker Phil Waugh, were not considered due to injury.
The biggest casualty is prop Al Baxter who’s test career appears to be all but over.
Backs – James O’Connor, Lachie Turner, Drew Mitchell, Peter Hynes, Digby Ioane, Rob Horne, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Stirling Mortlock, Ryan Cross, Berrick Barnes (vice-capt), Kurtley Beale, Quade Cooper, Matt Giteau, Will Genia, Luke Burgess, Richard Kingi.
Forwards – Richard Brown, Wycliff Palu, David Pocock, George Smith, Rocky Elsom (capt), Matt Hodgson, David Dennis, Mitchell Chapman, Dean Mumm, Mark Chisholm, James Horwill, Benn Robinson, Ben Alexander, Pek Cowan, Sekope Kepu, Salesi Ma’afu, Matt Dunning, Stephen Moore, Tatafu Polota-Nau