Mortlock dropped as Aussie captain
Flanker Rocky Elsom appointed Wallabies skipper in place of Mortlock.
Last Modified: 09 Oct 2009 10:57 GMT

Robbie Deans, left, is hopeful Mortlock, right, will stay with the Test squad [GALLO/GETTY]
Stirling Mortlock has been replaced as captain of the Australian Wallabies by coach Robbie Deans ahead of their season-ending Grand Slam tour.

Deans was hopeful Mortlock would continue to play on to the 2011 World Cup despite choosing Rocky Elsom for the position.

Mortlock was named in a 35-man squad for upcoming internationals against New Zealand, England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and said he was hopeful the 32-year-old would commit to the Wallabies beyond next year when his contract expires.

"Stirling and I have had a number of conversations over the last few weeks and at this point, the dialogue has been really encouraging," Deans said.

"I believe he can go the distance. We're hopeful that he believes that, but ultimately that will be his call."

Injury woes

Media speculation surrounding Mortlock's captaincy had grown since the 80-cap veteran sustained a serious knee injury during a Tri-Nations Test against South Africa in August.

Mortlock, who led the Wallabies for the better part of four seasons, told local media this week he had travelled to Japan while recovering from injury for talks with club Kyuden Voltex and would decide on his long-term future before the end of the year.

Elsom's appointment comes only months after returning to the Australian fold from a season-long sojourn in Ireland, where he was lauded for his key role in Leinster's road to the Heineken Cup.

The 26-year-old flanker, sidelined for most of the season with a knee injury, played only four Tests before getting the call-up after Australia's doomed Tri-Nations campaign.

"It's a bit like when you get your first jersey, I think, you're over the moon to have that opportunity, but also there's a lot of responsibility that goes with that, but I'm just really happy to get that opportunity," Elsom said.

Flyhalf Berrick Barnes was named as vice-captain of the squad, which includes seven uncapped players, but lock Nathan Sharpe and flanker Phil Waugh were omitted due to injury.

26-year-old Elsom will lead a more youthful team [GALLO/GETTY]
Young squad

Veteran prop Al Baxter was also left out, signalling Deans' hope that youth will turn the flagging Wallabies' fortunes around.

"This tour provides us with a development opportunity ...

“That is why we have opted to introduce some younger players, as opposed to taking along players whose capabilities we are already aware of," Deans said.

"Clearly players that fall into that category are the likes of Baxter and possibly Waugh."

Australia will head to Japan for their final Bledisloe Cup match in Tokyo on October 31, after signing off their Tri-Nations campaign month with a woeful 33-6 thrashing by the All Blacks in Wellington last month.

Following this the Wallabies then travel to Europe for a Home Nations showdown.

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