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Wallabies skipper ready to resume

13/07/2011 08:02:15 PM Comments (0)

Australia captain Rocky Elsom is hoping to play the full 80 minutes in his much-anticipated return to rugby, Sunday's season-opening Test against Samoa in Sydney.

Elsom has played just one game since the Wallabies' 2010 spring tour finale against France last November due to hamstring and ankle injuries.

The 28-year-old missed the first 11 matches of the Super Rugby season due to a hamstring problem.

He performed strongly in his comeback game against the Western Force in Perth but was diagnosed with ankle syndesmosis after the match - his last for the Brumbies.

The blindside flanker has worked hard to prove his fitness and is keen to make the most of a busy international season after a forgettable Super Rugby campaign.

"I'm pretty happy to be back, obviously I had a couple of long breaks there and I'm just really enjoying training with the team rather than by myself," Elsom said.

"I've always been progressing well, so that (the prospect of not being fit for this weekend) might have been someone else's thoughts but in my head I've prepared pretty well considering the injury.

"Sometimes you're in the middle of a long season and you feel fresh as a daisy and sometimes you don't. It's just the way it goes but I'm pretty excited to be getting back into it."

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans had no hesitation in selecting Elsom for this weekend's clash with Samoa but isn't expecting miracles from his skipper.

"He's 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 an understrength side, with Digby Ioane the only member of the Super Rugby champion Queensland Reds set to start.

Melbourne Rebels halfback Nick Phipps, NSW Waratahs lock Sitaleki Timani will both start in their Test debuts whilethe Reds' pair of debutants James Hanson and flanker Beau Robinson were picked on the bench.

Al Baxter and Pek Cowan were rushed into camp after Benn Robinson was ruled out for the rest of the year with a knee injury, with Deans yet to decide which of the props will take the final spot on the bench.

Fullback Mark Gerrard will start ahead of a fully-fit Kurtley Beale in his first Test since the Wallabies' win over Japan at the 2007 Rugby World Cup, while Dan Vickerman is also back after taking three years out to finalise his studies in England.

David Pocock (foot) missed out on selection but is expected to face South Africa in Sunday week's Tri-Nations opener.

Wallabies: Mark Gerrard, James O'Connor, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane, Matt Giteau, Nick Phipps, Ben McCalman, Matt Hodgson, Rocky Elsom (capt), Nathan Sharpe, Sitaleki Timani, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Sekope Kepu. Reserves: James Hanson, Al Baxter/Pek Cowan, Dan Vickerman, Scott Higginbotham, Beau Robinson, Will Genia, Kurtley Beale.

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