Wallabies 30 Man Squad Announced
Story and Photo by ARU Media Unit -www.rugby.com.au
Twenty-six year-old Queensland Reds captain, James Horwill, has been selected to lead Australia during its campaign to be crowned the world’s number one Rugby team in September and October.
The appointment of Horwill, who led the Reds to Queensland’s maiden Super Rugby title earlier this year, is one of the key points of the 30-player Australian squad unveiled today in Sydney.
Horwill will become Australia’s 77th Test captain when the Wallabies have their final hit out before the game’s showpiece event in New Zealand by taking on the All Blacks in next week’s final Tri Nations Test in Brisbane. Horwill takes over from Rocky Elsom, who has led the side through the Wallabies’ last 24 internationals.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said the change in leadership had been made because Horwill, previously a key member of the team’s leadership group (also including Elsom, halfback Will Genia and flanker David Pocock), was considered the player best equipped to handle the all-round responsibilities associated with captaining the side.
While Elsom remained a player of stature within the squad, the national selectors in Deans, David Nucifora and Jim Williams, felt that the additional responsibility of the captaincy had been a burden for the powerful flanker during the five Tests played to date this year.
“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.”
While Horwill made his Test debut against Fiji four years ago, 2011 will be his first appearance at Rugby’s premier event.
He had played just one Test prior to 2008, but has been an automatic selection for the Wallabies, when available, since Deans took over as coach.
Elsom is one of eight who played at the 2007 tournament in France, where Australia bowed out in the quarter-finals.
The others are centre Adam Ashley-Cooper, flyhalf Berrick Barnes, winger Drew Mitchell, hooker Stephen Moore, No 8 Wycliff Palu and locks Nathan Sharpe and Dan Vickerman.
Sharpe and Vickerman have taken part in two previous campaigns to find the world’s best team, having both also featured when Australia made the final on home soil in 2003.
All but four of the players who travelled to South Africa on the recent away leg of the Tri Nations series have been included in the squad.
The players to miss selection from the South Africa trip are winger Lachie Turner, flanker Matt Hodgson, lock Sitaleki Timani and prop Pekahou Cowan.
Players returning from injury into the squad are Mitchell, Palu, hooker Tatafu Polota Nau and prop James Slipper.
While Barnes and Horne haven’t yet played at an international level this year, both have worked their way back through club Rugby, after coming off injury breaks.
All players returning from injury have been closely monitored in their work by the selectors using the latest Blackberry technology to gauge fitness and general preparatory levels via their training output.
Squad members injured prior to, or during the New Zealand based tournament, can be replaced. All replacements are permanent however, which means covering short term injuries had to be factored into the make-up of the squad.
This is one of the reasons why three halfback and hooker specialists had been selected.
“It was critical that we provided ourselves with cover for every conceivable eventuality in terms of injury,” Deans said.
“Looking at every scenario imaginable, and how that impacted on the squad, and our ability to still field a combination suited to the way we want to play, was a critical part of the selection process.
“We are fortunate to boast a lot of versatility amongst our backs especially but given the tournament regulations around replacements; additional cover at halfback and hooker was non-negotiable.”
Australia’s 30-man squad charged with taking on the world in September and October will assemble in Brisbane on Sunday for a Fan Day at Ballymore as the start of the preparation for Saturday week’s Tri Nations finale against the All Blacks, which will be played in front of a sell-out crowd.
A still to be determined number of players who are not required for the Tri Nations finale, will instead feature for the Australian Barbarians as they tackle Canada at Skilled Park on the Gold Coast on Friday week.
The Canadians, who are grouped with the All Blacks, France, Tonga and Japan for the seven week tournament are stopping in Australia en-route to New Zealand.
The Australian Barbarians side, which will be coached by Wallabies coaching coordinator David Nucifora and fellow Wallabies coaching staff member Phil Blake, will be named on Sunday.
The Barbarians team will finalise its preparations for the Canadian match on the Gold Coast from next Wednesday.
As well as including members of the 30-man squad who are not required for the Tri Nations finale, the Barbarians squad will be drawn from players who were previously involved with the Wallabies earlier in the year.
The players to have been involved in training with the Wallabies this year but to have missed selection for New Zealand are Mark Gerrard, Turner, Rod Davies, Luke Morahan, Matt Giteau, Dave Dennis, Hodgson, Dean Mumm, Timani, Ben Daley, Cowan and James Hanson.
Deans said this group would form the back up pool of players should the Wallabies require replacements during the seven week tournament.
“They’ve had the background with us. As such, they are the guys we will be looking to should further playing resources be needed at any stage,” he said.
“We will continue to monitor their progress at training, and their work in club games, as we have with the work of all of the players beyond our immediate match night squad through the season to date.”
The Australian 30-man squad: