David Pocock’s star turn against France was not out of the ordinary for the flanker, but doing it as captain was a whole other level for the 63-Test back rower.
While Pocock was quick to deflect individual praise after the 25-23 win over France, despite forcing a handful of turnovers, including a pivotal steal late in the game.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, sitting alongside Pocock post-match, described Pocock’s performance as "inspirational".
“I think we all know what David brings, I don’t want to embarrass him sitting next to me but I think as a leader – different as a seven – today he played as a leader and captain,” Cheika said.
“And I think that inspires other players around him and it certainly inspires me watching him in the game when you see a leader take it on like that.
“Full credit to him because he was one of the players that was retained in the team, he knew he had a job to do and he took it on with both hands.”
The Wallabies had to turn around a lopsided opening half penalty count to grind out a victory, with most infringements coming from the scrum.
Rookies Allan Alaalatoa and Tolu Latu combined with veteran James Slipper in the starting side, but struggled to get on top of an enormous French front row early on.
“It was tough but I think, I don’t know how to say it, we try to scrum a certain way and that’s how we’ve been told how we’re going to scrum, which is square.” - Michael Cheika
Cheika admitted the scrum was an area where they fell behind, but suggested that was because opponents were falling into bad, and illegal, habits.
“It was tough but I think, I don’t know how to say it, we try to scrum a certain way and that’s how we’ve been told how we’re going to scrum, which is square,” he said.
“You can’t bind in certain places and maybe we just are doing too much of the right thing because the angles of different props that we’re encountering is not how it’s supposed to happen, it’s supposed to be square scrummaging.
“What do you do? Sometimes that happens in a game and you’ve got to be resilient and get out of it, that’s all there is to it.”
Cheika said he was confident the side could turn things around in the set piece ahead of a crucial Test against Ireland next Saturday.
“We said that at halftime, we said try to find a solution to the scrum issues so we could keep that contest alive, but I suppose our strategy is to scrum solid, try and dominant the opposition and get good front foot ball, not just get the ball out.
“Whereas other scrums may look to get penalties – it’s different tactics. We definitely were beaten in the scrum area.
“One key scrum we got turned over but we’ll fight back.
“I thought the lineout was more an area that we were. I thought that Rob (Simmons) did a great job organising that and at times we got some really good front foot and some good penalties." - David Pocock
“We’ve come a long way in the scrum and maybe the combination of tactics tonight didn’t work for us in that area.”
“We’ll get our stuff right and get ready for both games that we’ve got next week.
Where they did find some advantage, Pocock said, was in the lineout, which functioned well in Paris, including leading to a penalty try in the first half.
“Don’t ask me too much about [scrum] angles and what’s going on up front. I thought it was probably an area that we weren’t happy with,” he said.
“I thought the lineout was more an area that we were. I thought that Rob (Simmons) did a great job organising that and at times we got some really good front foot and some good penalties which got us in good position.”