Rocky Elsom’s playing future beyond this season remains shrouded in mystery as the Brumbies flanker gears up for his long-awaited return in Saturday night’s Super Rugby clash with the Force in Perth.
Elsom, who hasn’t played since November due to a chronic hamstring injury, is almost certain to leave the Brumbies at the end of the season and could well use the final five games of the season to audition for a new gig.
Although he is still in negotiations with the Australian Rugby Union, his choices in Australia seem limited, with a return to Europe after the World Cup maybe his best option.
NSW coach Chris Hickey admitted this week the Waratahs hadn’t even thought about the prospect of luring Elsom their way, while the Force already have an all-Wallabies back row and are now focused on bolstering their backline.
Elsom played under current Reds coach Ewen McKenzie for five years at the Waratahs, but there has been nothing coming out of the Queensland camp to suggest they are hot to trot for the 28-year-old.
The Rebels, who targeted the Wallabies skipper when they were first granted a Super Rugby licence, appear to be Elsom’s most likely port of call should he decide to stay in Australia.
But a return to Europe seems the most attractive option after Elsom’s popular stint with Irish province Leinster, where he won the European Player of the Year in 2009.
Matt Giteau, a current teammate of Elsom’s at the Brumbies, said he had no idea where the 112kg loose forward would head next.
“I find it hard enough to get him to tell me what he had for breakfast let alone contracts,” Giteau joked.
“He keeps everything pretty close (to his chest). There’s been no indications from him.”
Elsom’s future now hinges on how well he fares over the coming months after finally shaking off a worrying hamstring injury.
The 64-Test veteran, who last played in the Wallabies’ thumping win over France in November, has some ground to make up if he is to cement his position in Robbie Deans’ World Cup set-up.
The uncertainty surrounding Elsom’s fitness and captaincy credentials even prompted Wallabies great Tim Horan to suggest either one of Queensland duo Will Genia or James Horwill should take over as skipper.
But Elsom is a proud competitor, and a strong finish to the season could see him retain the captaincy heading into the World Cup.
Either way, Giteau is just glad Elsom is back in the Brumbies’ fold after a week from hell at the Canberra-based franchise, which copped a hiding from coach Tony Rea after last Saturday’s loss to the Lions.
“He brings a lot of leadership and experience,” Giteau said of Elsom.