Australia reveal Horwill as captain for RWC

(RUGBYWORLDCUP.COM) Thursday 18 August 2011
 
Australia reveal Horwill as captain for RWC
James Horwill has been in great form for Queensland Reds and Australia this year

Australia go into Rugby World Cup 2011 with a new captain but missing one of their star names of recent years.

James Horwill, the second row who led the Queensland Reds to their first-ever Super Rugby title this year, assumes the leadership duties from Rocky Elsom, while ACT Brumbies fly half Matt Giteau does not figure.

Elsom, who led the side for the past 24 internationals, keeps his place in the 30-strong squad travelling to New Zealand.

The flanker played only 60 minutes of the Super Rugby campaign, and Wallabies coach Robbie 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.”

The 26-year-old Horwill will form part of an engine room where the Wallabies have strength in depth: the first-choice locks in RWC 2007, Nathan Sharpe and Dan Vickerman, have 96 and 57 caps respectively.

Sharpe chance of a century

They are two of eight survivors from the previous campaign, the others being Elsom, hooker Stephen Moore, number 8 Wycliff Palu, fly half Berrick Barnes, centre Adam Ashley-Cooper and wing Drew Mitchell. Sharpe, who could become the fifth Australian to win 100 caps during the tournament, and Vickerman also featured in Australia 2003.

Sharpe is the most experienced player in a side that has an average of 28 caps and 25 years a man. Melbourne Rebels scrum half Nick Phipps is the rookie with two caps; Queensland Reds number 8 Radike Samo is the eldest player at 35, James O’Connor the youngest at 21.

Giteau is the most notable omission, Australia’s third-highest points scorer having twice been shortlisted for the IRB World Player of the Year award.
 
Horwill will lead Australia in their final Tri Nations match this year against the All Blacks in Brisbane on 27 August.
 
For Drew Mitchell it caps a remarkable return to fitness, after his World Cup hopes appeared over when he dislocated an ankle playing for the New South Wales Waratahs in April. Fellow Waratah Palu also won his race to get fit for the tournament after having knee surgery in July.  

The omens are good for Horwill: the past four World Cups have been hoisted aloft by a forward: Francois Pienaar (South Africa, 1995), John Eales (Australia, 1999), Martin Johnson (England, 2003) and John Smit (South Africa, 2007).

Australia:

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.

Squad subject to RWCL approval

Australia’s squad will be at Ballymore, Brisbane, on Sunday 21 August, to meet fans from 2-4pm.