SYDNEY, October 9- Flanker Rocky Elsom will lead a 35-man Wallabies squad named on Friday containing seven uncapped players for the October-November tour of Japan, United Kingdom and Ireland.Elsom replaces incumbent skipper Stirling Mortlock, who returns from injury to be included in the touring party.
Coach Robbie Deans, under pressure to introduce a winning culture into the Wallabies’ set-up after they finished with the wooden spoon in this year’s Tri-Nations series, has turned to Elsom to inject some passion into the under-achieving Australians.
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.
Deans said Elsom appealed as the best leadership option because of his certainty of selection and his 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," he said.
Mortlock was the incumbent captain when Deans took over the Wallabies last year.
"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.
"He has indicated a desire to continue not only to play but also to lead and we respect that."
Deans, the former coach of the champion New Zealand Super 14 province Canterbury Crusaders, has historically shown a preference for his captain to be in the forward pack.
"Although George Smith did a sound job taking over once Stirling was injured this season, we feel the role has never really sat naturally with him," 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.
These are 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.
Three players who were chosen in the pre-tour training squad, lock Nathan Sharpe, uncapped winger Nick Cummins and flanker Phil Waugh, were not considered due to injury.
Record-capped tight-head prop Al Baxter missed out altogether after he was dumped midway through this year’s Tri Nations campaign.
The Wallabies leave for Tokyo next week ahead of the season’s final Bledisloe Cup Test against the All Blacks on October 24.
The Australians then move on to the British Isles where they will play England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales over successive weekends next month.