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Elsom dumped as Wallabies captain

Published: 12:08PM Thursday August 18, 2011 Source: AAP

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 today 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.
  
Lock 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.
  
As 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 specialist halfback.
  
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 seasons.
  
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.
  
Western 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.

Hodgson's failure to make the squad means Pocock won't have a specialist back-up to cover at No.7, making him almost irreplaceable in the case of injury.
  
The seemingly ageless forward Radike Samo, 35, is the feel-good story of the squad, named because of his versatility just 18 months after he thought he was washed up as a professional player following stints in France and Japan.
  
Samo's and Palu's inclusions, along with fellow No.8 Ben McCalman, puts extra heat on Elsom's place in the back-row.
  
But Deans, who told Horwill of the leadership change on Monday after the 14-9 victory over South Africa in Durban, denied the writing was on the wall for Elsom, who has only returned from hamstring and ankle injuries in the past five weeks.
  
"With his recent challenges with his injuries, he's only just getting back to form, (and) it just frees him up to really focus on his rugby," Deans said.
  
"He made great progress last week (in Durban) and as he gets back to full fitness we expect big things from him."
  
Elsom will remain in the Wallabies leadership group with Horwill, Pocock and halfback Will Genia.

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

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