James Horwill has replaced Rocky Elsom as Australia’s captain in a shock move before next month’s Rugby World Cup.
Reds skipper Horwill was surprised when coach Robbie Deans on Thursday
named him to lead the 30-man Wallabies squad to the tournament, kicking
off on September 9 in New Zealand.
Elsom has captained Australia
since 2009 but appears to have lost the job with his position in the
starting team under pressure from Scott Higginbotham.
Deans said Elsom took the news admirably, saying he accepted it in the “best interests of the team”.
“Rocky remains a very important member in the group and remains in the leadership group,” the coach said.
Horwill led the Reds to this year’s Super Rugby title and has also been
Australia’s form forward in their past two Tri-Nations Tests.
expected, 92-Test back Matt Giteau was a notable omission, with Deans
instead selecting NSW playmaker Berrick Barnes as the five-eighth
back-up to Quade Cooper and Melbourne halfback Nick Phipps as a third
Bulldozing No.8 Wycliff Palu (shoulder-knee)
heads a list of six wounded Wallabies stars who have been named despite
being grounded by injuries, with Palu out for most of the past two
Deans also selected hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau (knee),
prop James Slipper (ankle) and Drew Mitchell (ankle) who are also yet to
return to action after injury.
Waratah backs Barnes (concussion)
and centre Rob Horne (elbow) were included after recently making
comebacks in club rugby after playing little Super Rugby this season.
Force flanker Matt Hodgson, who has been the back up for ball scavenger
David Pocock, is arguably one of the most unexpected omissions after
being among the Test squad for the past three years.
Backs – Kurtley Beale, James O’Connor, Drew
Mitchell, Digby Ioane, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Rob Horne, Pat McCabe,
Anthony Faingaa, Berrick Barnes, Quade Cooper, Nick Phipps, Luke
Burgess, Will Genia.
Forwards – Ben McCalman, Radike Samo,
Wycliff Palu, David Pocock, Rocky Elsom, Scott Higginbotham, James
Horwill (capt), Rob Simmons, Nathan Sharpe, Dan Vickerman, Ben
Alexander, Sekope Kepu, James Slipper, Salesi Ma’afu, Stephen Moore,
Saia Faingaa, Tatafu Polota-Nau.