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Australian Rugby
Elsom sacked as Wallabies skipper
ESPNscrum Staff
August 18, 2011

Australia coach Robbie Deans has made a shock move by sacking Rocky Elsom as his captain with Reds lock James Horwill set to lead the side at this year's Rugby World Cup.

Elsom has received criticism over his form in recent times after the flanker endured a horror run of injuries during the most recent Super Rugby competition. Meanwhile, Horwill guided the Queensland-based Reds to the Super Rugby title for the first time.

Horwill will become Australia's 77th Test captain when the Wallabies have their final hit out before the World Cup in a Tri-Nations match against the All Blacks in Brisbane. Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said the change in leadership had been made because Horwill was considered the player best equipped to handle the all-round responsibilities associated with captaining the side.

"It is well documented that Rocky came into the Test season off a limited background in terms of preparation, having missed all but 60 minutes of Super Rugby due to injury," Deans said.

"As the incumbent captain, he warranted the opportunity to continue in the role but it has become clear that the additional responsibility has been a distraction that Rocky doesn't need. We all felt it was in the best interest, both of Rocky and of the team, to relieve him of the extra duties, with James's recent experience making him the best option to take over in the role."

Elsom is one of eight players who competed at the 2007 World Cup in France, where Australia bowed out in the quarter-finals. The others are centre Adam Ashley-Cooper, fly-half Berrick Barnes, winger Drew Mitchell, hooker Stephen Moore, No. 8 Wycliff Palu and locks Nathan Sharpe and Dan Vickerman.

Players who missed out on selection from the recent South Africa trip are winger Lachie Turner, flanker Matt Hodgson, lock Sitaleki Timani and prop Pekahou Cowan, while Matt Giteau missed out as expected. Returning from injury into the squad are Mitchell, Palu, hooker Tatafu Polota Nau, centre Rob Horne and prop James Slipper.

A philosophical Elsom claimed, however, he would now knuckle down and focus on playing matters. "It's just the way it goes. I mean it's in the nature of the sport, it's just part and parcel of it," he said. "I don't know if disappointed is the right term, but I think it is what it is and we've just got to get on with it.

"Kevvy's (Horwill) done a great job for us in the short time he's been back this year, he's been pretty solid the whole season. Everyone in the side wants the same thing and we're pushing very hard for that."

Deans is confident Elsom will not dwell on the disappointment and will swiftly return to his best form. "It's part of the brief. You've got to do what you believe is right in the interests of the team," Deans said. Obviously it wouldn't have been his preference, but I guess it was made easier by his response.

"It just goes to show where his head is at. It was an impressive response. He (Elsom) simply said 'Whatever's in the best interests of the team' and I think you'll see an impressive Rocky Elsom in the next few weeks.

"He can now really concentrate on getting himself in the right shape without having any peripheral demands, because there are a lot of peripheral demands around the captaincy."

Horwill said Elsom was the first person he spoke to when learning of the news and admitted he would base much of his captaincy style on his predecessor. "He's a very good friend of mine and that conversation between me and him was fantastic," Horwill said.

"I think he is a great leader and someone this team needs as part of this group to move forward and be successful. Rocky's a guy that doesn't speak unnecessarily and when he talks the whole group listens."

Deans was also adamant that he has not fallen out with high-profile casualty Giteau. "It's nonsense," Deans said of the alleged friction between the two. "I don't want to get into specific details. It's tough enough for him to swallow without picking over that as well. (His attitude) is exceptional. You don't get to play 92 Tests and have that sort of longevity in the game without having a good attitude."

Wallabies World Cup Squad:

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 (c), Rob Simmons, Nathan Sharpe, Dan Vickerman, Ben Alexander, Sekope Kepu, James Slipper, Salesi Ma'afu, Stephen Moore, Saia Faingaa, Tatafu Polota-Nau.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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