Elsom back in the fray

Date published: February 4 2008

Wallaby flank Rocky Elsom will return to bolster what is a formidable Waratahs back row for the annual Rotomahana Challenge against the Crusaders in Sydney on Thursday.

Wallaby flank Rocky Elsom will return to bolster what is a formidable Waratahs back row for the annual Rotomahana Challenge against the Crusaders in Sydney on Thursday.

Elsom will join fellow Wallabies Phil Waugh and Wycliff Palu for the only pre-season match that the team is likely to take seriously this year, after coach Ewen McKenzie announced his strongest available team (13 Wallabies) for the Crusaders clash.

“Rocky has really come of age in the last 12 months, not just for the Waratahs, but also for the Wallabies where he established himself as a starting XV player in 2007,” said McKenzie.

“After Phil Waugh was injured early in last year's campaign, Rocky stood up to become a leader of the pack and he'll continue to develop as one of our senior players in 2008, “added the Tahs coach.

However, the Tahs will be without star wing Lote Tuqiri, who will enter the competition slightly unprepared for the Super 14 opener against the Hurricanes in Sydney.

Tuqiri recently had surgery to correct a breathing problem, but should be back for the Hurricanes match.

Luke Burgess is also unavailable for the Challenge after a knock on the head in last Friday's match against the Brumbies, while David Lyons and Sam Norton-Knight are still on the road to recovery.

“Dave [Lyons] is making good progress since breaking his leg at the World Cup, while Lote [Tuqiri] and Sam [Norton-Knight] are expected to be right for round one against the Hurricanes,” said McKenzie.

While the results seldom matter in the pre-season, it would be foolish to deny that the Waratahs have gotten their pre-season off to an outstanding start with emphatic wins against the Reds and the Brumbies already.

If anything, that could create quite a problem for McKenzie in terms of selecting a starting squad for the season opener next week.

“The waters are still murky in terms of selection which is a good position to be in,” said McKenzie.

“Winning or losing doesn't usually matter in trials, but the Rotomahana is a bit different, and it's good to see the Crusaders are taking the same attitude as well.

“One game out your systems need to be in place for the start of the Super 14 and we'll be going out to ensure our house is in order for the opening round of the competition,” added the Waratahs coach.

Waratahs: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Matt Carraro, 13 Timana Tahu, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Ben Jacobs, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Josh Valentine, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Phil Waugh [c], 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Dean Mumm, 4 Dan Vickerman, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Matt Dunning

Replacements(from): Adam Freier, Al Baxter, Will Caldwell, Beau Robinson, Brett Sheehan, Andrew Smith, Sam Harris, Jeremy Tilse, Benn Robinson, Ben Mowen, Ben Batger, Alfi Mafi

Date: Thursday, 7 February
Venue: Sydney Football Stadium
Kick-off: 19.40 (08.40 GMT)
Referee: Brett Bowden
Touch judges: Stuart Dickinson, Dan Cheever