Rocky Returns To Lead Wallabies
Wallabies test captain Rocky Elsom will make his return to the international arena against Samoa on Sunday in spite of the fact he has made just one Super Rugby appearance since last November.
Elsom missed the first 13 weeks of the Super Rugby season with a hamstring injury before going down with an ankle injury in his comeback match against the Western Force.
However the flanker is confident he is over both injuries and will make it through the 80 minutes against Samoa.
“I’m pretty happy to be back. Obviously I’ve had a couple of long breaks there and I’m just really enjoying training with the team rather than by myself,” Elsom said.
“It’s funny, sometimes you’re in the middle of a long season and you feel fresh as daisy and sometimes you don’t – it’s just the way it goes but I’m pretty excited about getting back into it.
Elsom also said that despite rumours to the contrary he was always going to be fir for the Wallabies first test of the season.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said that while he had no qualms in selecting Elsom, he was not expecting his captain to be at peak match fitness just yet.
“He is fit and available. You could call it 100 per cent if you like but from a rugby perspective obviously it’s not,” Deans said.
“He hasn’t got rugby conditioning, but certainly it’s good that he’s able to get started. We’ll just respond to what we see, in terms of in-game, and go from there.”
Elsom will lead a largely inexperienced squad with Deans opting to give a number of fringe players in the squad the chance to impress.
Stand in scrum half Nick Phipps and Waratahs second rower Sitaleki Timani will make their test debuts, while Brumbies inside centre Pat McCabe gets his first chance in the starting 15. Hooker James Hanson and flanker Beau Robinson will also make their first appearances for the Wallabies off the bench. Melbourne Rebels fullback Mark Gerrard also gets the chance to play his first test match in four years.
While the side is very different from the one that will be selected for the big tests later in the season, Elsom is confident that the debutants will make their mark in test football.
“It is good that guys get there opportunity, there’s a lot of excited blokes out there,” Elsom said.
“And I remember when I had my first test, it was against Samoa in similar circumstances and it was a pretty good feeling and I imagine they will enjoy it.”
Elsom also said that the match against Samoa would give fringe Wallabies an important chance to break into the starting 15 ahead of the World Cup.
“With the preparation time we have being so limited you’ve got to take advantage of every moment you have,” he said.
“We’re fortunate to have a game this weekend and we’ve got to get the most out of it otherwise we’ll be letting ourselves down.”
Digby Ioane is the only player selected in starting line up from the Queensland Reds, however Deans says that while it was in his original plans to play the Reds players this weekend, he had altered his plan after the Reds magnificent end to the season.
“It’s to do with emotion but it’s also physical,” Deans said.
“The Reds have gone three weeks longer than anyone else in terms of training, and these involved three weeks of high intensity rugby. Then they’ve worked themselves after that. We’ve individualised the situation. They’ve all had varying volumes and varying demands.
“Will (Genia) and Quade (Cooper) have played every game, and are at the heart of the Reds’ decision making. So there’s a lot of demands on them in preparation and delivery. This is an opportunity for a bit of respite before they re-enter. We also want to freshen some because we won’t get the opportunity again.
“We’ve got to come together as a group. People like to suggest there’s a 15 that’s best and they should play every week. But it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen for a reason, because with the demands of rugby, performance ebbs and flows. And we’re looking for a group to hit the ground this week, full noise and represent Australia well.”
Benn Robinson will miss the entire spring test campaign after suffering an ACL injury. Al Baxter and Pek Cowan have been bought into the 40 man squad, however Deans is yet to decide which man will secure the final props spot on the bench.
Wallabies Test Squad to play Samoa
15. Mark Gerrard
14. James O’Connor
13. Adam Ashley Cooper
12. Pat McCabe
11. Digby Ioane
10. Matt Giteau
9. Nick Phipps
8. Ben McCalman
7. Matt Hodgson
6. Rocky Elsom (Captain)
5. Nathan Sharpe
4. Sitaleki Timani
3. Ben Alexander
2. Stephen Moore
1. Sekope Kepu
16. James Hanson
17. Al Baxter/Pek Cowan
18. Dan Vickermann
19. Scott Higginbotham
20. Beau Robinson
21. Will Genia
22. Kurtley Beale