Bell throws hat into ring to captain wounded Wallabies
Darren Walton |
Highly-rated prop Angus Bell has put his hand up to captain the wounded Wallabies after conceding Australia’s Rugby World Cup flop still haunts the playing group.
While Eddie Jones’ successor as coach remains undecided, Bell would “definitely” answer any SOS call to take the skipper’s armband after already being anointed by two-time World Cup-winning great Tim Horan as a future captain.
“I’ve always aspired to be a leader,” Bell said on Tuesday after returning to pre-season training with the NSW Waratahs.
“That’s completely up to the new head coach. I’ve got to make the Wallabies first and make the Waratahs first.
“Through actions on the field and whatever else happens, that decision is then made by the head coach (but) it was awesome to hear Timmy say that.
“He’s a legend of Australian rugby and has been highly successful also with the Wallabies.”
After initially appointing veterans Michael Hooper and James Slipper as co-leaders for the first Test of the winter, Jones ended up using six captains during his ill-fated 10-month second tenure as Wallabies coach.
After then being overlooked for World Cup selection, Hooper has since retired from Test and Super Rugby to focus on sevens and hopefully next year’s Paris Olympics.
And while Slipper is Australia’s second-most-capped Wallaby ever behind only George Gregan with 134 Tests’ experience, the veteran front-rower turns 35 next year.
The incoming coach, whoever that may be, will likely look for a younger leader and clean slate ahead of Australia’s hosting of the British and Irish Lions in 2025 and the men’s World Cup in 2027.
Hooker Dave Porecki, who recently turned 31, is the incumbent captain after France-based World Cup skipper Will Skelton, also 31, was injured during the global showpiece in France.
Halfbacks Tate McDermott, 25, and Nic White, turning 34 next year, also skippered the Wallabies in 2023.
Regardless if Bell is next in line or not, the 23-year-old says it’s time for the Wallabies to draw a line in the sand and move forward, even if the ignominy of being the first Australian team to fail to progress out of the World Cup pool stages “still lingers”.
“The good thing is potentially there are opportunities there for Australian rugby to redeem a little bit of that respect back that we lost at the World Cup,” Bell said.
“In professional sport, you can’t hang on to things for too long, so we’re excited for next year.”
Bell and Waratahs and Wallabies teammate Lalakai Foketi did admit that it would be disappointing to see Jones defect to Japan, having initially committed to coaching the Wallabies for five years through to the next home World Cup.
“It would hurt a little bit just because all the chatter around all that kind of stuff before (the Wallabies’ tournament opener),” said Foketi, who conceded he needed time off afterward to mentally recover from the World Cup despair.
“You see people you haven’t seen for a while and they want to hear about it and talk about it and it was hard because not by fault or not by effort that we didn’t go as well as we wanted and it was poor World Cup from us.
“So, yeah, it lingers. It’s probably still lingering a little bit.”
Rugby Australia boss Phil Waugh says the governing body won’t rush into naming a replacement for Jones and Foketi doesn’t believe hiring a foreign coach or not makes any difference.AAP