Senior Wallabies back Elsom

Former skipper Stirling Mortlock and flyhalf Matt Giteau on Tuesday pledged their support for new captain Rocky Elsom and said there was no rift within the Wallabies’ squad ahead of their tour to Europe.

Giteau and Mortlock presented a united front at a press conference giving their full support for coach Robbie Deans’s new leadership team of Elsom and vice-captain Berrick Barnes.

Reports of player disenchantment and tension within the 35-man touring squad were wide of the mark, Giteau said.

“No tension, I’m obviously excited to be picked in the squad and looking forward to the tour coming up,” Giteau told reporters.

Deans overlooked his key playmaker for the vice-captaincy, instead opting for Barnes, amid media speculation that he will usurp Giteau at number ten and push him into the centres.

Giteau said he was disappointed he missed out on a new leadership role.

“I think if you talk to any players within the squad at some point they would like some form of leadership role at some point in time, so from that point of view [I’m] disappointed but fully supportive of the guys that obviously the coach and [ARU chief] John O’Neill have appointed,” he said.

Mortlock said he was feeling confident about his fitness and was looking forward to forcing his way back into the starting 15 after sitting out the unsuccessful Tri-Nations series with a knee injury.

He also pledged his support for Elsom as his successor as captain.

“Rocky already knows that I’m there for him in any capacity that he wishes,” Mortlock said.

“It’s a change. My role within the team will change somewhat, but I’ll be still offering and try to give as much as I can to the group.

“That’s the important thing, that every single guy in this squad is contributing as much as we can, to make sure this is a very positive and productive trip.”

The Wallabies leave for Tokyo on October 24 ahead of the season’s final Bledisloe Cup Test against the All Blacks on October 31.

The Australians then move on to the British Isles where they will play England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales over successive weekends next month.—AFP

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