Former Australia captain Rocky Elsom will lead the Waratahs this season

Rocky Elsom was today confirmed as captain of the HSBC Waratahs for the 2012 FxPro Super Rugby season.

A world-class flanker and renowned leader, Elsom led Australia in 24 Test matches between 2009 and 2011, a record matched by only four players in Wallaby history.

The 28-year-old returned to NSW this season, having previously represented the state on 66 occasions between 2003 and 2008, scoring ten tries and winning the 2007 Matthew Burke Cup for HSBC Waratahs Players’ Player of the Year.

Said HSBC Waratahs Head Coach Michael Foley, “We have spent the past months in discussions with senior players in an effort to determine the best man for the job. There will never be a perfect replacement for retired skipper Phil Waugh however  after defining the role and what it was the players expected and wanted from a captain, Rocky was the stand out candidate.”

As part of the leadership team involved in the process, Benn Robinson believes the team has found the right man for the role. “It was important for the players to have someone who represented the best interests of the team.

“In Rocky we have someone who can fly the flag, as well as personify what the leadership group and ultimately the team is all about, on and off the field.”

With 66 Super Rugby caps, Elsom is the 17th most capped Waratah in Super Rugby history.  A product of Brisbane’s Nudgee College, he represented Australia at Under-16 level in 1999 and Australian Schools in 2000 before being picked up by NRL club the Bulldogs, where he spent the following two seasons.

Following his return to Rugby Union in 2003, Elsom featured heavily for the HSBC Waratahs in three years of the Super 12 tournament before making his Wallaby debut in 2005.

Described by his NSW team-mates as a standard setter, Elsom was voted the Wallabies’ outstanding player in 2008.  Moving to Ireland at the close of the season, he helped Irish Province Leinster reach the 2009 Heineken Cup Final, claiming man of the match awards in the semi final victory over Munster – for an incredible eleventh time in 13 matches –  and in the finals triumph over Leicester Tigers, before being voted Leinster Rugby Player of the Year.

His return to Australia paid off when he was named as the 76th captain of Australia by coach Robbie Deans upon announcement of the squad for the 2009 end-of-year tour. His first Test as captain came against New Zealand in Tokyo in October 2009, his last was against South Africa at Durban in 2011. In his 24 Tests at the helm, Australia won 13, lost 10 and drew one.  Under his leadership, Australia recorded a record win (59-16) over France in Paris in 2010. The Wallabies also won on the high veldt in South Africa for the first time in 47 years in 2010.

Before joining the HSBC Waratahs after the conclusion of last year’s Rugby World Cup, Elsom made his 75th appearance for the Wallabies in the epic semi-final against New Zealand, having been a
regular for the Wallabies since making a try-scoring debut in 2005 against Samoa.

Having undergone surgery on his right hamstring last November, Elsom is on course with his rehabilitation program, and is expected to return within the first month of the season. “Due to the nature of the modern game we will need to call on different players to captain the side during the season,” said Foley, who will be relying on the strength of the eight-man leadership group already in place.

The HSBC Waratahs will face last season’s champions the Queensland Reds at ANZ Stadium in the opening round of the 2012 FxPro Super Rugby season on Saturday, February 25.

In preparation, they will play two trial matches against Pacific Island opposition, firstly against Samoa at Tamworth (Friday February 10) then against Tonga at the Sydney Football Stadium on Friday February 17, kick off 7.40pm.