'New' face to lead Wallabies
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: “Captain Grumpy” Allan Alaalatoa will lead the Wallabies for the first time after being rushed straight back in for Australia’s spring tour clash with Italy in Florence.
Alaalatoa was forced out of last week’s 29-30 loss to France after being concussed in the Wallabies’ tour-opening 16-15 win over Scotland.
But in a measure of how highly Dave Rennie rates the Brumbies star, Alaalatoa will not only make an immediate return but also become Australia’s 85th Wallabies captain – and first new skipper since Dean Mumm in 2015.
The 28-year-old’s appointment will certainly make his father Vili proud.
Cricket-loving Vili, who represented Samoa at the 1991 Rugby World Cup, named his son after former Australian Test captain Allan Border.
Hence Alaalatoa’s “Captain Grumpy” nickname at the Brumbies.
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The 61-Test veteran’s inclusion – and promotion – coupled with a spell for tour captain James Slipper likely means the Wallabies will start with two new props against the Azzuri.
Tom Robertson is tipped to get the nod as starting loosehead over Matt Gibbon after both were on the bench in Edinburgh, with Alaalatoa taking over from Taniela Tupou as run-on tighthead.
Coach Rennie is also certain to make changes to his backline after centre Lalakai Foketi was ruled out of the tour with a leg injury after completing one of the Wallabies’ tries of the year at Murrayfield.
In addition to adjustments to his midfield, Foketi’s NSW teammate Jake Gordon is in line for his first start of the tour after Rennie pledged to rotate his three halfbacks.
The Wallabies have won all 18 previous Tests against Italy and enter Saturday’s match as heavy favourites to improve their European tour record to 2-1 before a showdown with top-ranked Ireland and finishing up against Wales.