McKenzie springs surprise by stripping James Horwill of Wallabies captaincy
Ben Mowen will captain Australia in Saturday's QBE International against England at Twickenham after James Horwill was relieved of the post.
A second major surprise sees Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie elevate fly-half Quade Cooper to the vice-captaincy in preference to Horwill and Will Genia.
McKenzie insists Horwill's slump in form was the reason behind his decision to strip him of the role he performed against the British and Irish Lions last summer.
"There's no doubting James is a world-class leader, but it's important he puts his personal performance first and plays to the level we know he's capable of on a weekly basis," McKenzie said.
"By his own lofty standards, James would admit he hasn't been on peak form so we've made the decision to remove the added pressures and responsibilities of being a captain so that he can focus entirely on bringing his 'A' game.
"Decisions like these are never easy, but sometimes you need to make hard choices for the long-term benefit of the individual.
"A strong individual performance will be the best contribution he can make to this game."
It has been suggested Horwill would have been dropped altogether but for a knee injury sustained by lock Rob Simmons in training.
Mowen made his Test debut against the Lions in June and will captain Australia for the second time after being at the helm for the 14-13 Rugby Championship victory over Argentina.
Offering support is Cooper, whose international career was in tatters little over a year ago after branding the Wallabies environment under former coach Robbie Deans as "toxic".
"Ben gets another opportunity to lead his country and we're also recognising Quade for the ongoing decision-making role he plays on the field," McKenzie said.
"He also continues to make positive evolvements in contributing to the culture of the team off the field.
"However, like we do every week, we'll re-assess all selection decisions for next week's game against Italy."
Matt Toomua has been preferred at inside centre ahead of Christian Leali'ifano, wing Nick Cummins is back after recovering from a broken hand and Scott Fardy comes in at blindside flanker after overcoming an eye problem.
Australia team: I Folau (NSW Waratahs); A Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs), T Kuridrani (ACT Brumbies), M Toomua (ACT Brumbies), N Cummins (Western Force); Q Cooper (Queensland Reds, vice-capt), W Genia (Queensland Reds); J Slipper (Queensland Reds), S Moore (ACT Brumbies), B Alexander (ACT Brumbies), S Timani (NSW Waratahs), J Horwill (Queensland Reds), S Fardy (ACT Brumbies), M Hooper (NSW Waratahs), B Mowen (ACT Brumbies, capt).
Replacements: S Fainga'a (Queensland Reds), B Robinson (NSW Waratahs)
S Kepu (NSW Waratahs), K Douglas (NSW Waratahs), B McCalman (Western Force), N White (ACT Brumbies), C Leali'ifano (ACT Brumbies), B Foley (NSW Waratahs).