Deans confident of Elsom return
August 14, 2009
Rocky Elsom has returned to training with the Wallabies © Getty Images
Australia coach Robbie Deans is confident that Rocky Elsom will bolster their ranks against the All Blacks in Sydney next weekend, but has also made sure to temper expectations on the former Leinster flanker.
Elsom has not played since the Barbarians' win over England at Twickenham in May, with bone bruising having frustrated his efforts to return in Wallaby colours. He completed a full training session on Tuesday, leading Deans to announce that the 26-year-old was available for selection.
"Yeah he's very confident at the moment so yes," Deans said when asked if Elsom is almost certain to be available for selection. "So long as there's no setback between now and next week I'd imagine he'll probably be considered.
"It's been quite frustrating for him, it was a significant injury that was more complex and sinister than we first thought. But he's now back out there and is enjoying being back out there and he's been able to up the ante in terms of the amount of work he's done."
Deans also warned against pinning too much on to Elsom's return, with the Wallabies desperate for a positive result after defeats to New Zealand and South Africa so far in this year's Tri-Nations.
"He was a big part of our game last year when he was fit, it won't be easy for him because it's been a while since he's played, so to expect him to come back and have an immediate effect would be unrealistic probably," he said. "He's a good forward, he's smart, he's good on the organisational detail and he's got a presence which the players around him enjoy. He enjoys mixing it and that's a good quality in Test match rugby."
Deans will have a tough decision to make after skipper Stirling Mortlock was ruled out of the rest of the series, with teenager James O'Connor likely to step in to the starting side. O'Connor is set to wear the No.15 jersey, with Adam Ashley-Cooper shifting to outside-centre.
O'Connor was involved in a training ground scuffle with veteran flanker Phil Waugh this week, and Deans is confident of his ability to step up to the top level after a difficult time in the defeat to the All Blacks at Eden Park.
"He's capable of starting (but) we'll make those decisions in time," Deans said of O'Connor. "He's shown the sort of courage that he's got - and capability - when you look at his response from Eden Park to Newlands and the circumstances he went into at Newlands, it was a remarkable response. He enjoys it, so he's only going to get better with every experience."