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Tate McDermott has 'all the attributes to be a great captain of his country'

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Tate McDermott has been handed the Wallabies captaincy for a Bledisloe Cup clash in Dunedin, prompting celebrations from his former school and rugby club on the Sunshine Coast.

Coach Eddie Jones has turned to the 24-year-old halfback to lead Australia against the All Blacks at Dunedin on Saturday, when he will become the 86th Wallabies skipper.

“Tate’s got all the attributes to be a great captain of his country,” Jones said.

“We’re definitely remodelling the team. We need to change the team from where we’ve been and part of it is definitely the leadership aspect.”

McDermott emerged as one of the country’s bright young rugby talents as a teenager, when he starred for Sunshine Coast Grammar in schoolboys rugby.

He made his debut for the Australian rugby sevens team as an 18-year-old and impressed with Queensland Country and the Australian under-20 team to earn a call-up to the Queensland squad in 2018.

He quickly became a key part of the Reds and earned his debut for the Wallabies 2020. He’s since played 23 matches for his country.

But he was overlooked by Jones in a 33-man training squad back in April.

So, receiving the captain’s armband completes a remarkable turnaround.

“I’ve learned a lot in the last two years and I’ve learned a lot in the last month,” McDermott said.

“Just how quickly we can solve problems is probably the biggest one I’ve learned.

“I’ve got a lot of people around me to help me support and play my best footy.”

A young Tate McDermott playing for Sunshine Coast Grammar.

Sunshine Coast Grammar said the school and rugby community were “overjoyed and proud of Tate’s selection as captain.”

The school said he was dedicated, a hard worker, and talented.

Head of Secondary At Sunshine Coast Grammar, Mr Darren Macleod-Paterson, said McDermott had always demonstrated the qualities of a natural leader.

“His strong work ethic, commitment and willingness to give back are the qualities we have always admired in him. We are all so proud of his achievements,” he said.

Head of Sunshine Coast Grammar’s Rugby Academy, Troy Atkins, said McDermott was leading the way for school and its rugby program.

“Tate’s dedication, hard work and talent have shone through and we couldn’t be happier for him. He continues to be an outstanding ambassador for our rugby program,” he said.

Former Grammar coach Dan Robotham said club members were proud of McDermott and his achievements.

“Tate is a fantastic role model for our young rugby players and deserves every accolade. Our whole school community is right behind him,” he said.

Fellow former Grammar student Carter Gordon was also named in the Wallabies team for the clash against the All-Blacks, after making his debut for the team earlier this year.

“Both players have worked tirelessly from a young age to achieve their goals and this is proof that hard work, discipline and character are the pillars of success”, Mr Robotham said.

Marika Koroibete, Tate McDermott and Quade Cooper during Wallabies training. Picture: AAP.

McDermott is the fourth different captain in Jones’ four Tests on his return as Wallabies coach, inheriting the role from prop Allan Alaalatoa who suffered a ruptured Achilles last weekend.

Longtime skipper Michael Hooper remains sidelined with a calf issue, while another of Australia’s regular leaders, James Slipper, will start on the bench.

Jones said he would re-assess the captaincy in coming weeks ahead of the Rugby World Cup in France starting next month.

Saturday’s Test looms as a mighty challenge for an inexperienced Wallabies side.

Jones has named an unchanged backline but overall, the starting XV has just 277 caps – the seventh-lowest total in the professional era.

Pone Fa’amausili will earn a first Test start, named at tighthead prop in place of Alalaatoa with Taniela Tupou also unavailable through injury.

Richie Arnold comes into the starting team at lock alongside Nick Frost with Will Skelton dropping to the bench while Fraser McReigh is introduced as openside flanker and Tom Hooper shifts to the blindside.

Jones is sticking by 22-year-old Gordon at five eighth after his shaky night with the boot in his starting debut last weekend and the coach hit back at critics.

“I don’t think I got (selection) wrong. In fact, I’m going to get it right,” Jones snapped.

“If you know anything about rugby you know that 10s need time in the seat.”

The Wallabies haven’t won against the All Blacks in New Zealand for 22 years (28 Tests).

McDermott was two years old when the Wallabies last defeated the All Blacks across the ditch, a 23-15 win that also came in the South Island university city, at the now-demolished Carisbrook.

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