Sharni Williams will take on the captaincy for Australia against Japan.
Sharni Williams will take on the captaincy for Australia against Japan.

Wallaroos lose captain for World Cup clash

THE Wallaroos have suffered a major injury knock ahead of their final pool match of the Women's Rugby World Cup with captain and Olympic sevens gold medallist Shannon Parry being forced to watch the game against Japan from the stands injured, alongside veteran Ash Hewson.

Parry's Olympic teammate Sharni Williams will take over the captaincy duties in the match, which is crucial to Australia's bid to match its seventh place at the last World Cup.

A loss by more than 15 points to Japan in Ireland could see the Wallaroos fall to 10th place at a tournament they entered with high hopes of being in the mix for a medal.

But a two-point loss to Ireland and then a 48-0 thrashing by France ended any hopes of Australia making the semi-finals.

While two of the Wallaroos most experienced players have been sidelined for the match, there is potential for mechanic Kate Brown to make her debut off the bench in the game.

Coach Paul Verrell said the loss of Parry was a major hit to his side but he had hopes Hewson would make it back on the field.

"Shannon has led this side admirably on and off the field and it's a shame to have such an influential member of our squad unavailable," said Verrell, who made four changes to his side for Friday morning's match.

"After being ruled out between the Irish and French matches, Ashleigh Hewson is also yet to fully recover from injury, but our strength and conditioning and medical staff are continuing to work closely with her with the hope she'll be available for our matches in Belfast."

Verrell's changes in the wake of the injuries will see lock Alisha Hewett earning her first tournament start, Chloe Butler moving to the flank, Australian Defence Force playmaker Sarah Riordan playing at flyhalf and Sydney centre Kayla Sauavo returning to the starting side at inside centre.

The Wallaroos meet Japan at 2am on Friday with the match broadcast live on Fox Sports.