The Wallabies will have a new captain for this weekend’s Test against Italy, with coach Dave Rennie making a whopping 11 changes to the side that went down to France.
Prop forward Allan Alaalatoa will become the 85th man to captain the Wallabies, with the 28-year-old returning to the side after missing last week’s loss in Paris.
“Allan’s a great man and an exceptional leader,” Rennie said.
“There was a massive roar in the team room when he was named captain this week and that shows the respect and standing he has within the group.”
There are some other big changes to the squad, with Will Skelton returning to the starting side for the first time in six years, while Rennie has opted to unleash Waratahs excitement machine Mark Nawaqanitawase on the wing.
The speedster was reportedly down the pecking order at the start of the year but made the necessary changes to break into the NSW side where he developed into one of the best outside backs in Super Rugby.
“He’s had a hell of a season,” Rennie said.
“He made big shifts defensively, he’s got post tackle presence, kicks the ball well.
“He’s a big man. Generally, we’ve got a pretty small backline, so it gives us a point of difference.
“We always knew a gruelling five-Test end-of-year tour would require a full squad effort. We made nine changes after the win over Scotland and planned a similar number for Italy, but injuries have increased that by a couple.”
With Tests to come against Ireland and Wales, Rennie is conscious of giving his stars a break, but at the same time he doesn’t want his players to take Italy lightly.
The Wallabies have never lost a Test to Italy and are coming off a highly competitive loss to France by just one point last week, but consistency has been an issue for the Aussies in 2022.
The Italians are coming off a huge win over Samoa and Rennie knows it will be a tough challenge in Florence against a side desperate to claim a big scalp.
“We’re conscious of the fact that it’s a good Italian side,” Rennie said.
“I know (Italian coach) Kieran Crowley well, and they’ve made really good shifts in the last 12 months.
“They’re coming off a massive win over Samoa last weekend and beat Wales in the 6 Nations, so we’re under no illusions of the challenge that’s in front of us.”