New skipper, new energy drives Wallabies

Sat, Nov 12, 2022, 2:13 AM
by AAP

New Wallabies captain Allan Alaalatoa will embrace the cultural significance of his appointment and harness the exuberance of the young team to ensure things go to script against Italy.

The son of Samoan international Vili, who played at the 1991 World Cup, will become Australia's 85th captain in Florence early on Sunday morning (AEDT) when he takes over from the rested James Slipper.

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It's 15 years since Digby Ioane, whose nephew Monty will incidentally run out for Italy on the wing, became the first Samoan to play for the Wallabies.

"It's really special; my parents migrated over to Australia to provide a brighter future for my brother and me so it's huge for my extended family," he said.

"I hold it close to my heart ... there's been a huge amount of support back home, a lot of messages and that adds that to the fuel to make sure I do everything I can to fulfil the role."

The prop will lead a team featuring eight players with less than 10 Tests each under their belts, tasked with beating an Azzurri side that's in form but hasn't beaten Australia in 18 attempts.

Nick Frost (ankle and illness) was a late scratching, Darcy Swain now starting in his first game since a six-match suspension and Cadeyrn Neville moving onto the bench.

Fullback Jock Campbell also missed Friday's captain's run photo as he too battles an illness that could keep him out of a second straight start in the No.15.

Queensland Reds teammate Jordan Petaia has been named on the bench but could slot into fullback if needed.  

Mark Nawaqanitawase will debut on the wing and NSW Waratahs teammate Ben Donaldson could also earn his first cap after being named on the bench as the reserve five-eighth.

Playmaker Noah Lolesio, halfback Jake Gordon, flankers Ned Hanigan and Fraser McReight, France-based lock Will Skelton, hooker Folau Fainga'a and prop Matt Gibbon will all start in a vastly different-looking unit while hooker Lachlan Lonergan gets his chance off the bench.

The captain said so many fresh faces had helped ease the pain of a gutting one-point loss to world No.2 France last week. 

"It's been a different energy with guys coming in for a new opportunity and being in that starting role for the first time for a few lads," he said.

"They've been jumping out of their skin all week.

"That new energy's been awesome and I wanted to channel that into nailing our detail.

"If we do that we'll be hard to beat."

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