Wallabies coach Dave Rennie says there are no guarantees Michael Hooper will be retained as captain, saying the selectors will first pick their team before settling on a leader.
Speaking as part of a Zoom call ahead of his arrival in Australia next month, Rennie also admitted to disappointment over the departures of Izack Rodda and Harry Hockings, who both refused to agree to sweeping pay cuts agreed to by the Rugby Union Players Association and Rugby Australia.
Rennie will also seek a conversation with former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who's turbulent reign was again picked apart last week after former Test selector Michael O'Connor lifted the lid on the uneasy environment that had existed both before and during last year's Rugby World Cup.
But Rennie's arrival represents a clean slate for the game in Australia and one he may yet opt to usher in under a new Test captain.
"We haven't spoken about captaincy at all, and I've spoken with Hoops a lot on various things," Rennie replied when asked directly whether Hooper would continue in the role he has filled fulltime since the middle of 2017.
"All we've talked about at the moment is earning the right to play, so it's about playing well enough to win the jersey and then we'll sort out who the captain will be."
Hooper guided the Wallabies through arguably their toughest 18 months since the game went professional as the Israel Folau saga not only dragged the game through the mud, but also created divisions in a playing group that landed on either side of a debate that extended well beyond usual team dynamics.
The 28-year-old told The Playmakers' Playbook podcast recently that he had struggled to handle the situation, but that he had done his best to have the "tough conversations" with players on both sides of the debate.
He then stepped down as Waratahs captain for the start of Super Rugby earlier this year, a move Rennie believes his rugby has benefited from and one the new coach may yet be keen to trial when the Wallabies and All Blacks meet in a potential four-Test Bledisloe Cup series later this year.
A change in leader could also further help to wipe the slate clean, with Rennie saying there were potentially a number of good captaincy options moving forward.
"Clearly he's not doing it at the Waratahs, and that's been good for his game to be honest, I think he's played really well. He's still leading, no doubt, he just hasn't got the 'C' next to his name," Rennie said.
"So he's a strong contender for captain but we haven't firmed up any decisions around that; we'll just work out what the team is and then we'll select the captain. But there [are] lots of good leaders in amongst that group."
Prop Alan Alaalatoa, who this year took charge of the Brumbies, would seemingly be another option, so too veteran playmaker Matt To'omua who has been one of the Australian game's key spokesman throughout the uncertainty of the last few months.
And it was that uncertainty which saw Reds trio Rodda, Hockings and Isaac Lucas break ranks with 189 of their Australian colleagues in refusing to agree to an average pay cut of 60 percent through to the end of September.
While there were suggestions Rodda was having second thoughts on the decision and that he was considering a backflip, those reports were put to rest last week when French club Lyon announced the Wallabies lock among their new signings for the 2020-21 Top League season.
Rennie said he had spoken with Rodda and believed some aspects of the story may have not been reported accurately, but that his departure and that of Hockings - who is likely to sign in Japan - had created Test opportunities for players who might not have otherwise had them at the start of the year.
"I've obviously spoke to a lot of the players prior to their dealings with the players association [RUPA] in the fact that they were going to be taking a haircut," Rennie said. "But to be honest a heap of the players were all saying -- no-one wants to be paid less -- but they all understand that it's important for the future of the game so they were supportive of it.
"I've spoken a lot to Izack, I don't know what's been reported, I don't tend to read a lot of papers, but the full picture probably hasn't been painted. I had a good chat to him last week, but he's gone and the whole situation is really messy and could have been handled a lot better. So that's disappointing.
"With young Harry Hockings gone, who I think could have been an outstanding international lock, and with Izack gone, and when you look at guys like Rory Arnold heading off last year, there's certainly an opportunity for some guys [locks] coming through. So not ideal but it is what it is and we've got to get on with it."