Getting down to it … Waratahs breakaway Rocky Elsom looks over the team's scrum at training yesterday. The NSW side will travel to Canberra to face the Brumbies, who lead the Australian conference. Photo: Steve Christo
THE Waratahs will back the recent form of breakaway Dave Dennis and start him in favour of Rocky Elsom in this weekend's do-or-die clash with the Brumbies in Canberra.
Dennis has been a stand-out in the blindside breakaway position for the Waratahs in the absence of Elsom and looks set to retain the starting No.6 jersey for another week despite his captain's progression in recent weeks.
He is also the Waratahs' back-up line-out caller and will be needed when replacement second-rower Sitaleki Timani is named today to start at lock in place of Dean Mumm, who usually calls the set piece combinations.
Stand-out ... Dave Dennis has been in solid in the blindside breakaway position for the Waratahs. Photo: Getty Images
Mumm has played every game this season and will be the first forward rested in a mid-season rotation flagged by coach Michael Foley at the weekend.
Timani, a former Brumby who did not play a game for the province in 2010, worked his way to a starting spot at the Waratahs last season and scored the match-winning try for his new club in round six last year.
Defensive coach Greg Mumm said yesterday having both Timani and Elsom available gave the Waratahs flexibility in the second and back rows.
''Obviously Dave Dennis can [also] be looked at in [the lock] position at different points in the game,'' Mumm said. ''One of the things in our mind is Sita's impact on last year against the Brumbies and obviously the history he's got there, so we're just looking at those combinations and seeing how they work out and giving us the best chance of putting combinations together [that can] get the result this weekend.''
Elsom's history with the Brumbies is less an influence on his selection than his match-conditioning and Dennis's role as line-out caller.
''I think Rocky's feeling better and better and he's having more impact at training as well, considering he's been out for a while it's a combination of his fitness and his timing,'' Mumm said.
''So I think Rocky's probably at a stage where he's capable of playing more minutes in a game, we're just conscious of the talent we've got there as well, and making sure that we put Rocky back at the best time when it's going to have the best impact on the team.''
Elsom, who stayed back to train a few minutes longer with Dean Mumm and the other forwards yesterday, said he was happy with the selection ''mix'' Foley had settled on during the past few games.
''I think it's fine the way we're going, obviously we didn't get the win on the weekend but there was a lot of good things in the game and the team is [doing] the job pretty well,'' he said.
Both Mumm and Elsom said the Waratahs were preparing for this season's Brumbies, who are leading the Australian conference and are vastly different to the squads of the past few years.
''I think that [their] rugby program wasn't what it should have been the last couple of years at the Brumbies and they seem to have corrected that,'' Elsom said.
''I think they play field position pretty well and if there's one thing they do do, that is that they play to their strengths and I think you've always got to be cautious of a team that's performing well and all on exactly the same page.''
Mumm praised the mobility of Brumbies' locks Scott Fardy, Leon Power and Sam Carter, who have all been paired up in the second row at some stage this season.
''Sam Carter is a big guy, [he] can move around the field very well for his size and then when you look at guys like [lock and breakaway] Peter Kimlin, Fardy as well as Power … what it does is give them an ability to play a really quick, fast game around the corner,'' he said.
''Particularly in the last two games you've seen them score some tries by moving the ball quickly the same way and the forward pack they've got allows them to do that.''