Elsom tells it like it is at the World Cup
Updated: October 04, 2011, 01:24
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WELLINGTON, New Zealand(AP) It made a striking image: senior players in the Australian team drawing aside younger teammates to share the bitter memory of their Rugby World Cup disappointment of four years ago.
The rumor had circulated that older Wallabies had resorted to cautionary tales to motivate the younger players ahead of Sunday's quarterfinal against South Africa.
As an object lesson, accounts of Australia's quarterfinal defeat by England in France four years ago was hard to beat. But veteran flanker Rocky Elsom broke the spell a little Tuesday when he told reporters it didn't quite go down that way.
"I wouldn't say that was entirely accurate but it is important to take the lessons of the past,'' Elsom said. "And we don't have to go too far back to have a look at when we don't do things so well.
"It was just about the whole group being aware of what helps us go well; what helps in particular this team perform well.''
The straight-talking Elsom cut through most of the other hoopla and hyperbole around Sunday's quarterfinal: talk of momentum and matchups and of Australia's home and away wins over the Springboks during this season's Tri-Nations.
"I don't know about momentum,'' he said. "I think you just need three big games, really,'' to win a tournament.
"Everyone's aware that it's the business end of the tournament. I don't think we have any lift in intensity or nerves yet (but) I think it's important we approach it like it's going to be our last game, because the reality is if we don't get past this we're all going home.''
Elsom said Australia's knowledge of the Springboks and its recent experience of playing South Africa was an advantage but he said World Cup matches were very different from those in the recent Tri-Nations.
"We've definitely got more background on them which means we probably don't have to pore over as much footage,'' he said. "But by the same token we know that they can be a handful. They're a very good side so as much as we know them we know we've got a big job as well.''
Elsom sees the role of the Australian backrow as being of defining importance this weeked, particularly at the breakdown.
"That's going to be an area of contention, because any team that gets the dominance at the breakdown they're going to provide front-foot ball for their attack and that is an enormous part of the game,'' he said. "If you look at the teams whose attack has really stuttered, you can almost always link it back to the breakdown.''
Sunday's match would be a definitive clash in world rugby, Elsom said, testing the merits both of individual players and of the teams.
"It's one of the great things about test matches that you find out really where you stand,'' he said. "We've got a tough opponent in South Africa and on Monday you'll have a clearer view of where world rugby sits.''