Rocky path to Elsom's farewell Test - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Rocky path to Elsom's farewell Test

By Jim Morton 11/09/2008 04:18:54 PM Comments (0)

Fearless flanker Rocky Elsom must overcome a virus to help the Wallabies to a cherished Tri-Nations title in his farewell Test on Saturday night.

A sick Elsom, rated by Australian assistant coach Jim Williams as almost irreplaceable, was a notable absentee from training at Ballymore with Hugh McMeniman running in his place.

Wallabies management preferred to keep the Ireland-bound star in the team hotel as a precautionary measure but say he's in no doubt for the high-stakes clash with the All Blacks at Suncorp Stadium.

Showing their confidence Elsom will be able to handle the illness, Australia released rangy reserve forward Dean Mumm who flew back to Sydney to prepare for a club semi-final.

"(Elsom) is just a little bit under the weather and I think they're being a bit careful with it to make sure he's fit for the game," said abrasive lock James Horwill.

While a virus is hardly going to prevent the inspirational Waratah from playing in the winner-takes-all Test, he will have to rise above it to claim the biggest achievement in his 39-Test career.

Elsom said at the start of the week the 2008 Tri-Nations crown would easily surpass any other career highlights, and would be a perfect send-off before linking with Leinster next week.

Williams, a former Test back-rower himself, is desperate to see Elsom, who has an option to play one or two seasons in Europe, return to Australia as soon as possible.

"It will certainly leave a huge hole just with the way he plays the game and his attitude on the pitch," the assistant coach said.

"He's very aggressive, a good ball-runner, an excellent operator in the lineouts and the way he gets around the field his work-rate is excellent."

Williams indicated part of the reason 69-Test lock Nathan Sharpe was a shock axing from the South African tour party was due to the desire to groom McMeniman and Mumm for the No.6 role with extra Test minutes in the second-row.

"That's why to a certain extent we've been working on filling that void as well, getting players in that will fill those areas and give them exposure as well," he said.

The All Blacks are in no doubt Elsom is a significant factor in the decider and live Bledisloe rubber, especially after his influential game was sorely missed in the Wallabies' 39-10 loss to NZ in Auckland last month.

"They did miss Rocky Elsom in Auckland, obviously in the lineouts and he's a pretty good ball carrier as well," said NZ skipper Richie McCaw.

"They get quite a bit of inspiration from him, just what he brings to the team, his energy."

The bug has been going around the Wallabies camp with dumped centre Timana Tahu also missing training, while Phil Waugh was rested earlier in the week.

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