Vickerman return on the cards

2012-04-03 09:02

Sydney - The Waratahs have not lost hope of being able to play Test second-rower Dan Vickerman during the second half of the season, despite some recent concerns he would have to retire.

At the start of the Super Rugby season, numerous Waratahs and Wallabies officials were concerned that 32-year-old Vickerman may have played his last game due to a stress fracture to his leg and shoulder problems. Several high-ranking officials predicted that Vickerman, after 63 Tests and 92 appearances with the Waratahs, Brumbies and Northampton, was about to retire.

However, his appearance at Waratahs training sessions in Sydney last week, where he was involved in intensive fitness drills, has revived hopes he will be sighted in the state and national colours this season. At both levels Vickerman's return will be gratefully appreciated.

He recently underwent an operation where a rod was removed from his right tibia, while after last year's World Cup he had a left shoulder reconstruction.

Waratahs coach Michael Foley said yesterday he was ''confident'' Vickerman would appear in the Super Rugby competition well before the finals in July-August, while the second-rower was ''certainly hopeful''.

''Having the rod taken out of his leg is a major moment, but on the back of that, Dan is very positive,'' Foley said.

''He is doing some level of exercise and cross-training without pain, which is something he hasn't been able to do for some time. The specialists are also hopeful that he might be able to make a return. They are saying in a month's time we will know, so that is encouraging.''

Robbie Deans will also be supportive of Vickerman, especially as the Wallabies coach believes the second-row's involvement in last year's internationals was crucial in Australia winning the Tri Nations series for the first time in a decade. Deans is also mindful he doesn't have an overload of quality second-rowers to choose from this season.

If Vickerman can pass all the tests, Foley is certain to use him as soon as possible, especially as the Waratahs' tight five have been forced to back up week in, week out for the opening six rounds of the competition.

Due to the unavailability of three forwards - captain and back-rower Rocky Elsom, Vickerman and hooker Damien Fitzpatrick - front-rowers Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Sekope Kepu, second-rowers Kane Douglas and Dean Mumm, and blindside Dave Dennis have been involved in every game so far.

Having Vickerman available would enable Foley to rotate his second-rowers. That's why he is relieved the Waratahs have a bye this week, as it gives his injury-riddled squad some much-needed days off.

Foley also knows that he will soon have to give the Timani brothers, Sitaleki and Lopeti, more game time and even consider starting them.

The coach said having several days off enables the whole team to mull over where they can improve.

''This bye gives us a chance to take a deep breath,'' he said. ''We are using the bye week to work out what we have learnt from the first part of the season. There are some messages in our recent games that we want to keep pursuing and there are some other things we really need to revisit.

''These include situations where as much as we are looking to break down defences and get ourselves in the right position on the field to score, when we get there, we still have to learn to be more patient with the ball. Against the Sharks, we were. Against the Chiefs, we weren't.

''Reflecting on the first six weeks, we have scrapped and scraped our way through. We've had three home games, come out of it with 13 points, and are still in with a hope in a conference where there is a real dog fight going on.''

Rugby Heaven