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Skelton named captain for Wallabies World Cup squad

SYDNEY (AFP) – Michael Hooper, Quade Cooper and Len Ikitau were shock omissions from a young Wallabies World Cup squad named yesterday with Will Skelton handed the captain’s armband ahead of veteran James Slipper.

Coach Eddie Jones also named three uncapped players among the 33 for the September-October tournament in France, including scrum-half Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, 18-year-old back Max Jorgensen, and prop Blake Schoupp.

It is the most inexperienced Wallabies World Cup squad in the professional era, with only eight of them having played the showpiece tournament before.

“It’s a young squad, it’s an exciting squad and it will be a successful squad,” said former England boss Jones, who has lost all four Tests since being appointed in January.

“We are making good progress. Our challenge is to continue to improve. To get a little bit better every day in everything we do on and off the field.

Australia’s Will Skelton tackled by New Zealand’s Jordie Barrett. PHOTO: AP

“As I’ve said since I took over, in Australian rugby we have the talent, but we don’t yet have the team. That’s still the case. But we are getting there and I’m backing that we will surprise a few people.”

Flanker Hooper, who spent two months out of the game on a mental health break last year, is Australia’s most-capped skipper, having led the side in 69 of his 125 Tests.

He picked up a calf injury earlier this year and missed their last three Tests, but was reportedly eager to play and aiming to be ready for their World Cup opener against Georgia on September 9. Instead, Jones kept faith with youngsters Fraser McReight and Tom Hooper, who stepped up in his absence.

Hooper’s omission likely draws the curtain on his international career. He has previously said he would either retire after the World Cup, move overseas or bid to make their Sevens team for the 2024 Paris Olympics.