Rocky Elsom to captain Wallabies

Rocky Elsom will replace Stirling Mortlock as Wallbies’ captain for the team’s October-November tour of Japan, the UK and Ireland.

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The 35-man squad will also contain seven uncapped players.

Elsom, 26, has played 44 Tests and returned home earlier this year after a successful off-season in Ireland where he helped the Leinster club win its maiden European Cup title.

Coach Robbie Deans has reportedly turned to Elsom to inject some passion into the Australian team, who took the wooden spoon at this year’s Tri-Nations series.

Deans said Elsom’s ability to lead from the front and his certainty of selection meant he was the best man for the job. “Rocky has the respect of his team-mates because of his approach and the total commitment he brings to the game,” he said. But Deans was keen to stress that Stirling will still be included in the touring party after returning from injury. “Stirling has done a good job as Australian skipper and he understands that this initiative has no meaning in terms of his playing future”, Deans said. The squad for Australia’s first attempt at a Grand Slam of the four British Home Unions in 25 years contains seven uncapped players. Western Force flanker Matt Hodgson and NSW Waratahs utility back Kurtley Beale had been involved within the Wallabies set-up this year, but the tour will represent the first Wallabies involvement for five other players. Queensland Reds scrum-half Richard Kingi, NSW Waratahs midfield back Rob Horne, ACT Brumbies blindside flanker Mitchell Chapman, NSW Waratahs lock Dave Dennis and ACT Brumbies prop Salesi Ma’afu have all been called up. The Wallabies leave for Tokyo next week before the final Bledisloe Cup Test against the All Blacks on October 24. England, Ireland and Scotland will take on the Australians over successive weekends in November.