The downside of the 'Pooper' combination

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

David Pocock is happy to leave Test selection to the coaches, but there is one thing that he might like to change about his combination with Michael Hooper.

The duo were two of the chief weapons in a dream 2015, a pairing that Australia had its first glimpse of late in the Wallabies’ Test against the Springboks last season, but ‘Pooper’ has come under fire in recent weeks.

David pocock was full of praise for Kyle Godwin. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyLineout issues against the All Blacks renewed calls to select a more traditional number eight to add more height to the backrow, but Pocock said they couldn’t be distracted by that.

“I've really enjoyed playing alongside Hoops. I think he's probably got a lot of my John Eales Medal votes,” he said.

“I feel like he gets through a huge amount of work and really contributes and he's a real leader within the team.

“I mean we'll leave those comments and speculation to others.

“For us as players, we're trying to improve that combination and get out there and be the best back row we can, individually and as a group.”

David Pocock defended Michael Hooper on Monday. Photo: Brian Hook PhotographyAsked on Monday whether teams were moving away from the over the ball type flankers, of which he is the ultimate prototype, Pocock said there was still a place for pilferers and the need goes beyond the backrow.

“I think most teams are still looking to have that on the ball presence,” he said.

“A lot of players across the field are starting to get a lot better at it - a few props, hookers, some of the outside backs.

The 'Pooper' combination has been under fire. Photo: Getty Images“[When we played] against England, they had a number of guys who were getting good turnovers against us, the All Blacks pressure the ball with their second rowers, (number seven) Sam Cane's pretty handy in that area too.

“So, I think there's still definitely a role for it - a lot of it depends on the amount of space that the opposition team gives in that area.”

The Springboks have their own backrow selection issues for Saturday night, debating between Francois Louw and Jaco Kriel.

Francois Louw was dominant this time last year. Photo: Getty ImagesLouw was a near man-of-the-match the last time the teams met, but Kriel has been putting pressure on the veteran in recent weeks and Pocock said they’d be wary of either as a starter.

“I think they're both outstanding,” he said.

“I think their timing's really good and they're big guys so they're pretty hard to move once they get onto the ball.

“I guess that's up to their coaches as to who they think's going to be better against us but both are really big threats.”

The Wallabies host the Springboks at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night, kicking off at 8:05pm AEST. 

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